Rachael Mead


Swimming in the Southern Ocean

I shed everything in the dunes and come to the sea
wearing only the curves and tones of the winter shore.

Wind surrounds me, an angry hive stinging
my skin with the fierce braille of its story.

I step over the lip where the sea tastes the sand
and wade into the green-glass gathers of the tide.

Everything burns with cold. I’ve crossed a border;
beyond my depth even though toes clutch the sand.

The waves slap my chest and drag their weight
against the backs of my thighs — out here

I am nothing more than weed-wrapped bone the sea
has finished with, passing it back to the air and earth.

This long, cold beach holds distilled abundance,
a plush emptiness, exotic as a foreign tongue.

Long after I’m back in camp, clothed and fire-warm
the sea’s strange consonants roll in the shells of my ears,

inescapable, underlying everything
like a dark childhood — and roaring.



Rachael Mead is a South Australian writer and poet. She is the author of three collections of poetry and won Varuna’s Dorothy Hewett Fellowship for Poetry in 2011 and 2015. Her work has been published widely in Australia and internationally and featured in video poems, on radio and in choral compositions.