Monday, 23 February 2009

Home Beach - Stradbroke Island

Home Beach

The ridge along Tramican Drive
Sits high behind Home Beach.
Expensive designer kitchens overlook
Expensive northern views.

Dog’s paws track west
Meandering erratically after tennis balls
And lumps of driftwood
In and out of lapping waters
Sniffing for signs of mates.

This year the tides are abnormally high
Surging across the expanse of sand
Flushing the reeds and dark-stained lagoons
Merging with ghostly tea tree swamps
Hiding the east coast road from
Humans and dogs and dolphin.

My lost orange earplugs wait to be retrieved
At Adder Rock
Where the tide’s western sweep slows
To negotiate the headland.

Fishermen gather there too
Casting brightly coloured lures into
The gutter formed by the constant
North westerly current.

I look in their buckets for clues
To their evening’s investment.
And find only the smell of two day old bait.
Neither silver fish nor orange ear plugs greet me.

As the sun sinks, a glow of molten gold
Throws millionaires drive into silhouette
The pedigree hounds settle on their polished wooden floors
Another punishing day complete.

Steve Capelin © 2009

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Deadman’s Beach - Stradbroke island

Deadman’s Beach
“In 1956 a skeleton and a boot were unearthed on this beach. Thought to be that of a sailor from the ship named Prosperity en route from Sydney to North Queensland with a cargo of sugar machinery. It sank in the Coral Sea off Point Lookout”

Too many young men lie dead in Dunwich Cemetery
Sons of Stradbroke Island
Their polished headstones grieving for lost youth, lost life
The inevitable outcome of a son’s obsession with the sea.

They stare back at the world
From headstones carved and crying out with pain
To families deprived
Condemned to relive this moment again and again and again

Their faded faces are alive with youth.
Burnt nut brown by the sun.
They carry fishing rods and surfboards
And pose beside utes and boats and in front of fibro fishing shacks.

Locked in a constant gaze, fixated on a distant shore
Exchanging knowing looks with giant Eucalypts above
With the wind whipped bay beyond the boat harbour
The scorching sun and drenching rains above.

Beside them lie the elderly pioneers on this ancient land
Their gravestones melting in the intense heat.
Some are borne from these deep sands,
Some are orphans adopted by this intoxicating island
The Walkers, Coolwells, McDonalds,
English names displaying their proud yellow, black and red,.

Murri families have colonised whole corners of this sacred ground
Alongside typhoid victims quarantined aboard ironically named ships
The Emigrant, The Sovereign, the Prosperity;
And outcasts housed in ironically named havens – The Dunwich Benevolent Asylum
Eight thousand unmarked graves create an artificial hill
Of institutionalised, mad, infirm, discarded souls.

History lies here undisturbed, unearthed
The stories of millenniums buried in the sands
The tides, the winds, the land, shifts and moves
And calmly holds its breath
As tourists in their 4 Wheel Drives pass by intent on heading for the east
To Deadman’s Beach.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Cylinder Beach - Stradbroke Island

Cylinder Beach

On a still afternoon
Under a perfect sky
This perfect bay glows
With milky jades and bottle glass greens;
Water so clear that
From a hilltop vantage point
You’d swear you could step into
This painted bay at any point and
Safely stand on the silent sandy bottom
Amidst cruising schools of silver sided whiting
And dark shadowy shoals.

On a still afternoon
Against a dark blue distant horizon
This perfect bay resonates
With sounds of wind and sea;
Growling, slapping, hissing a
Symphony of native sounds
On an island still holding tight
Its native heritage .
The symphony, a hypnotic hymn
So familiar it does not exist for some;
So calming it lulls the locals to their afternoon naps
Benignly holding a steady drone
To lure the unsuspecting to this shore.

On a still afternoon
The lighthouse sits, listless and mute
As sail boats and fishing trawlers glide by
Or wave at the shore as they
Tilt and rock in the arms of the gentle swell.
No sign here of the oxy acetylene cylinders
Which gave the beach its name;
The cylinders destined for the lighthouse flame,
That winking beacon of kind reminder
Warning the unwary of the dangers
Of this perfect headland.

(C) Steve Capelin 2009

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Mazda Peugeot - Oops

I am an impetuous writer. I post the blog before I do a final edit. This could be seen as disrespectful to the world at large - like half cooking the rice for a curry and serving it to guests because you're simply... too hungry to wait. Am I bad? No, just impatient. Anyway how did I manage to change the make of car in the last paragraph of a long story in which the car had been the sole constant? Apparently it was easy. Yes the beloved Peugeot changed to a Mazda (they don't even have a single alphabetical letter in common). My beloved wife who generously reads most of what I write was the only one to pick it.
Now for some more punctuation adjustments.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Journey complete

It's done. 16 mini stories, one big story. I have no idea how it reads in total. I'll read it through in a few days and start editing it into a consistent whole.
Your comments would be helpful in this. Does it constitute one story. Did it hold together. Was there any dramatic tension which kept you interested?

Now for some new stuff. I'm working on a set of poems based on the beaches of North stradbroke island.
I'll get on to them in the next week.
And maybe some other stuff.
Thanks to anyone who followed these 16 stories through to the end. I owe you a coffee.

Journey. A story in 16 parts. J16 Farewell.

“You were a good bloke poppa”

“See ya dad. We enjoyed having you with us for fifty years”

With those simple words from niece and son, my brother and I stumbled towards the bank while the others looked on.

I had the ashes, I would go first. Funny how, even after fifty years, the older brother still assumes the elder role. I had removed the gaffer tape and cover. The auxiliary cord had not been necessary. With one foot on the branch of the weeping willow and the other on a protruding root I straddled the water and upended the cask.

I’d watched too many movies. I’d expected a mist of fine ash to drift silently on the breeze and gently drift into the distance on the water’s surface as a grey sheen – the last tribute to a loved man.

Instead, at first a fine sprinkle of solid grey material trickled through the four inch opening quickly followed by a heavier rain of rougher matter . The fine sprinkle either floated off or became invisible as it settled on the river floor, but the larger stuff seemed to make a tinkling sound as they escaped the cask and hit the water – like the sound sea shells make when you step on them; or when water ebbs and flows over them on the shore. They went straight to the bottom.

This would have been okay if we were in deeper water, but here the sandy white river-bed was only six inches below the surface. They sank and settled in a pile, a little mountain, and stared back at me. My father’s bones.

Without revealing my alarm, my distress, I handed the box to my brother for his turn. He continued, while I gently suggested that he distribute dad a little more widely. I feared that we might freak out the local fishermen if they arrived for their Sunday fish, only to discover a pile of bones at their feet.

It was weird.

Each of the grandchildren had a turn and then the box was empty. I stood and stared.

I felt cheated and empty. It seemed like a flat ending to eighty two years of life. Me standing there staring, and him staring back at me. The only consolation was that I knew exactly where my father’s bones lay. Home at last.

I sighed, mumbled something incoherent to my brother and walked back to the Peugeot. In five minutes we were all gone – Aunty to the hinterland and home; my brother to his daughter’s home-made shelter on her lush and beautiful electricity free plot of land hidden behind towering Mt Warning; my car load began the long road home. Three hours of silence. Wardell to West End.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Journey. A story in 16 parts. J15 Convoy

Three cars in an unofficial funeral procession convoyed across the Richmond River. Travelling with headlights on and at twenty kilometres an hour we were lucky that the Pacific Highway police patrols were all on lunch or dealing with more pressing matters in the hinterland. A speeding ticket for obstructing the flow of interstate traffic and trade would have been most untimely.

The southern bank was accessible via a narrow dirt switch-back to the left of the bridge. It was well worn and led back under the hugh steel framing. There it opened out into an area clearly used by locals to park and fish or park and snooze. It was pleasantly cool.

A young fella was casting his line fifty metres downstream. He was standing at the end of a small timber jetty, five metres long and low to the water. It was perfect for our purposes. I wondered how he’d feel if eight of us were to saunter up beside him and begin emptying a box of old man’s ashes into the river. We could try and pass it off as “burley” but the cremation had successfully eliminated anything nutritional.

We looked around for another approach to the bank. It had been raining and the pooled muddy water made us play a game of hop-scotch as we searched for a point of access.

My brother and I took the lead and quietly reconnoitered the area while the remaining six hung back in a silent cluster. We balanced on roots and mounds of sodden bank and spied a spot sheltered by an overhanging willow where the water was clear and slow moving. You could see the sandy riverbed.

“We’ll do it here” I called back over my shoulder.

The silent cluster moved forward hesitantly, carefully negotiating the puddles. An awkward silence fell over the group. Nobody quite knew what came next.

A speech? Some ceremony? A story? None of us had done this before – at least not successfully. At least at the funeral service there had been a sense of order. Some routine to follow set by thousands of feet and families before us. A welcome; A eulogy; A song, maybe a prayer; A few tributes and stories and then the curtain; And a wake. We’d done that part well. But here? No curtains. No funeral directors. Only us and the feet of the local fishermen before us. We hesitated.

The moment seemed suspended in time. Eight people, plus dad in his box, waiting for inspiration.

“Have you got something prepared?” queried my niece who was four months gone with her first child. She was very close to her poppa and as idealistic as her grandfather was atheistic. She was in the grip of morning sickness and the challenge of navigating her spiritual path through the miracle that pregnancy had offered her. Her quest for meaning and for the world to be a more compassionate place ached for this moment to be special.

Each of us had a special relationship with this old man in the box. He had been the most spiritual of atheists imaginable. He would not have know Zen Buddhism from a full strength beer but he embodied a Zen quality. Infuriatingly at times.

His lack of attachment to material things went as far as refusing to let us decorate his nursing home room (more of a stall – a box not much larger than his current ashy abode). Eventually he relented and allowed two photos to grace his walls – one of each of his son’s families. Strangely, no photo of his beloved wife of fifty years adorned those walls. Perhaps detachment was also emotional protection. He refused to dwell on the past and saw no value in exploring or dredging up old emotional ties. Only his sister could trigger in him the old stories, including the old hurts. They were like twin minds.

“I don’t want to give you advice luv, but I reckon you should just let him go. In the river. He’s not expecting anything special”

The twin brain had spoken and settled it.