Monday, May 10, 2010

J is for jetty

(jetty: n. a small wharf.)
[wharf: a structure built on the shore of, or projecting
out into, a harbour, stream etc so that vessels may be
moored alongside to load or unload or to lie at rest; a
{quay: an artificial landing place for vessels
loading or unloading cargo}
(pier: a structure built out into the water
to serve as a landing place for ships)

We are there, we two sisters and a brother
in our jumpers in the boat you'd need to row.
The landing place is the flood-hollowed
river bank, below what's now called
the Terry Tinkler Reserve. In the 1950's
it was the place for stilt-legged water tanks
(every household owned one) and fishing.

We are perched on the boat's rims; it's
a plain boat, for rowing and catching redfin.
We are wearing jumpers so it is winter, but
the water is low, the carved banks not wet.
Where were the floods that year, in the cold
season? And whose boat is it, so clearly
a rowing boat, high and dry, in a riverbend

without a jetty? I must ask my mother.
Who now bumps around the house
as if she's in a coracle of pain. The legs,
she says, when they go ... We jolly her
along. It's the mind that matters, Mum,
we say: just keep doing your crosswords.
When we venture weekly to the shops

I create safe harbours for her, legs planted
firmly, elbow offered like a solid bollard.
(Naut. a vertical post on which hawsers
are made fast) The next memorable photo
is of Mum, thirty-six years old, the terylene
suit, hair a dark helmet, striding towards us
on the new Barmah Bridge, the punt retired.

All this before speed boats and fundraising
canoeists disturbed the waters. They flowed
as waters love to flow, gathering around
snags and sand bars, washing exposed roots
clean, transporting fish from mudbanks to
heaven or the hell of hooked betrayal. Now
those waters travel turgid, cautiously.

I'm on the pier with my son, and he's singing.
He sings to the rhythm of waves; he sings
into the wind, chooses notes from an unlikely
score. Ankles crossed fatly, eyelids half-closed
he is a seaside Pan, oblivious to audience. This
is my son's first known world; already he grows
like melaleuca: ragged, short covert bloomings

head raised to welcome the waves and wind.
I am thirty-five here. A decade later, photograph
the ribs and bones of  French Island pier, blue
on blue, light beyond shade, frames for dappled
seagrass-bedded Westernport. It seems there is
no safe anchorage; I have moved, migrated, set
feet on many wharves, been cargo, packed and

lifted above the waters, left high and dry along
the courses of water, set down where landscape
is foreign, changed by flood or tsunami, driven
to lie at rest. I have sat with friends, legs dangling
on the ends of our tolerance, I have strolled to take
the measure of these artificial walkways. The timber
comes from deep within old growth forests, holds.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I so love this! (Having many memorable jetties in my life too.)