Meredith Wattison


Dupain’s Proof

Out past the shark net and Jet Skis planes are landing. They approach and skid in from the right. There is little physical space or interval between arrivals. They do not have the dissolve or presence of swans, nor the glib buoyancy of seagulls.

The bay throws off glare and a drawing shimmer of heat rises from the white sand. Bathers and sunworshippers sink into the midday stupor; that deep-brain buzz in their ears, the vague, moving figure visions behind their eyes, a breeze on their numbed, submitted skin. Here and there small, domed sun-shelters are collapsed and carried as sandalled families walk up the sand to leave. An elderly, bronzed woman wears a bandeau. She readjusts her beach umbrella, counterweights it with a plastic bag of sand. Her towelling beach bag is pulled into the shade. I envy her hedonist’s longevity (Dupain’s unproved, unreal, proof of ideal) and station.

Some boys dare each other to jump down the stairs near the kiosk. A seated man, cutting through eggs and toast puts it out there, discusses, his want, need, for cotton sheets in this weather. His companion, spooning salsa, obliges, he thinks, feels, Indian cotton is best and knows where to get some and how much he should have to pay.

A strong baby, new to its feet, stands rigid, acrobatic, on his seated father’s thighs. He steadies himself with grasping toes and handfuls of his father’s wet, sandy hair. Eyes and mouth agape like a transcending visionary. He is distracted and accepts food from his adoring mother inattentively. She offers her breast like a salted constant.

A single Chinese child is standing, his chin is the height of the tabletops, stays close to his parents and the table, clasps a transparent ball, with a bright inclusion, in his small hand as he is terrorised by a circling knot of rough, friendly children.

I sit at the open, bi-fold window, behind me a table of young men sit in a circle like a tribe or collusive forum. A breeze teases, refuses the room. The white tabletop contrasts against their hands and forearms, their graphic T-shirts. One of them has the hearty, amplified laugh that quietude, an enclosed space, resents.

Outside, a homeless woman and her matted, flea-bitten dog are distinguished by their attachment to each other, their shared water and displacement in this precinct and heat.

A couple with their gentle Italian Greyhound is distinguished by their attachment, and gift of their dog, to each other. The woman has yellow flowers tattooed across her shoulders. We discuss their dog and its conspicuousness in renaissance paintings; its weightlessness and delicacy as it swoons against my legs for shade.

I imagine the excitement of those passengers landing across the bay; their realisation of physical arrival, non-physical arrival remains volition, their agenda and expectation of hedonism.



Meredith Wattison was born in 1963. Her five books of poetry are Psyche’s Circus (Poetry Australia, 1989), Judith’s Do (Penguin Australia, 1996), Fishwife (Five Islands Press, 2001), The Nihilist Line (Five Islands Press, 2003) and Basket of Sunlight (Puncher & Wattmann, 2007). terra bravura is due to be published by Puncher & Wattmann. A book of her prose pieces is forthcoming.