OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Type
Poetry Prize
Category
Writing

Topography

the soles of her sneakers scrape the gritty sand
a butterscotch-ripple-trail, glass and melted stone
and tufts of sunburnt grass that somehow find a way
she charts her steps carefully while I travel in leaps, heroic and haphazard
over the scarred edges of shallow craters containing rust-coloured rain
mirrors for clouds and skating rinks for mosquitoes
she smiles when I look back, diamond-shaped dimples darken
a perfect day, she says. Indeed
the jagged cliff is bird-like. Eagle rock, says the map
I say it looks more like a turtle’s head
protruding from an ancient sedimentary shell
you’re wrong, she says, tracing an outline with her finger
nail painted purple. It’s definitely an eagle
down below, turbulent waves crash and spill over the flat shelf
white cold and bubbling
a pair of fishermen, pant legs rolled up, retreat from the rising tide
they wade backwards with white buckets, carrying metal poles
and green plastic bags with jittery half-live fish
I bite my avocado and Swiss cheese sandwich
and she peels our still-sour mandarin
the large one with the black t-shirt slices silver flesh on grey rock as we look on
carves out its guts and final breath with his shiny blade
at half-three we ascend, with giant strides
up sandstone steps to the surface of the moon, our own lunar landing
we’d be kicking up dust for days, she says. Radioactive regolith
charged and floating and unforgiving to the machines of man
past the beach with the lone sunbather, baked, brown and blissful
and the father and son skipping stones in the snaking saltwater stream
the path turns inland, into and between wind-warped trees
that curl and bow and tilt at odd and oppressive angles, like disoriented ballerinas
between footsteps, we listen to the chorus of birds, playing games
inside a maze of thorny branches, hide-and-seek and Marco Polo
moving like tossed darts, rustling leaves, before exploding through rare openings
a flash of feathers momentarily silhouetted against the turning sky
this way to Deer Pool, says the yellow lettering on the pointed wooden sign
the trail widens, a rush of liquid crystals cascades over slippery, ageless surfaces
we tiptoe across, like charcoal crows on a telephone wire
and still we manage to soak our socks through our shoes
the way back is shorter. It always is, she says
a re-enactment in reverse, recognisable landmarks lighten the load
and mark the way like street lamps in summer, as dusk settles like a blanket
in the half-light, I blink away the blurry edges
and listen to the whisper of pea-sized pebbles
crunching beneath my own rubber soles
her hand finds mine. It’s cold. We’re almost there
I know, she says. I know

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Myles Gough is a freelance journalist who has written for Al Jazeera, New Matilda and the Australian science magazine Cosmos. He also writes poetry and short fiction, and was the second runner-up in the 2012 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize.

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