How I want to be beside the sea

Throughout his 400-day incarceration in an Egyptian jail, Australian journalist Peter Greste craved the feeling of sand between his toes:

…one of the things that I realised, particularly during those dark moments, is that your mind tends to drift to places that have some kind of significance for you. And, to me, it was always the beach. I don’t know why that is, but it just was. And I – I really craved the feeling of the sand between my toes, the sight of a sunset or two and the sight of the stars. I haven’t had much of either over the past 400 days or so and so to walk out on that beach in Larnaca and wiggle my toes in the sand was a really pretty extraordinary feeling.

It got me thinking about the significance of the ocean as a kind of salvation in times of mental hardship. I would like to share some lines of verse which are based on some childhood memories of the ocean. Memory can equally be a cruel thing in contrasting happier, carefree times with the utter drudgery and one-dimensionalness of the adult life of responsibility (I have a mortgage now, can you tell?).

There’s a great quote from Henry David Thoreau that I keep going back to:

I think that no experience which I have to-day comes up to, or is comparable with, the experiences of my boyhood. My life was ecstasy. In youth, before I lost any of my senses, I can remember that I was all alive, and inhabited my body with inexpressible satisfaction; both its weariness and its refreshment were sweet to me. . . . I can remember how I was astonished.

And of course there’s William Wordsworth

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!

But perhaps the most sensible advice comes from Norman Mailer:

It’s a trap to spend time writing about your childhood. Self-pity comes into the voice.

Anyhow, without further ado, here’s my poem Melba Parade, Point Roadknight

At Point Roadknight
a desiccated street
leads to the beach
this road of my memory
is trod not by wheels
but by feet:
pale and blistered
calloused and lean

The baked earth
by armies of slapping thongs
wears the drip of frosty fruits
the trail of a leg rope
the rusty wheel of a pram

Left at the roundabout
and into the shaded dune
where the trees
shush the roar of the sea

depleted, lulled
along the crusted trail
the risen moon vigilant
my towel has the weight of a chain

limbs heavy, yet
alive to the wash of the waves
whispering in my ear.

I will never live this deep again.


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