David Beach


Ghosts 1

Little enough outback pedestrian
traffic as there is nowadays, the jolly
swagman’s shade can still be heard asking if
there are any takers to come waltzing
matilda. With me, it sings, though pretty
much ensconced at the billabong, kicking
around on its back, so that whoever does
pass by is put to wondering whether the
thing being urged is to jump in and drown —
such a quantity of splashing sometimes
to make it appear that — and the swagman’s
wait become for the billabong to boil —
quite a few of those chancing along
had been beguiled by the invitation.


Ghosts 2

To match the decks of modern boats the
Flying Dutchman has indeed often to
take to the air (only beneath the waves
forbidden it) on its endless East Indies
run: its crew working furiously, whether
part of or an attempt to cheat their doom,
and the craft really flying even when it
isn’t: encounters therefore brief, this the
keenest torment, the sailors (in denial
about how long they’ve been sailing) bellowing
messages for their dear ones of seventeenth-
century Holland, the babble (a drowning
out crueller than drowning) sounding like
curses, and finally in fact curses.


Ghosts 3

Ghosts are particularly susceptible
to the phenomenon of phantom limb,
can even experience phantom head, poor
souls such as headless horsemen, charging
about distractedly, nothing to make
you lose your head like losing your head. In
fact most do possess heads, tucked under an
arm or held aloft. But whether they
accessorise themselves or, the true headless,
turn their backs on their heads, no relief is
available, certainly not at cockcrow,
the recall to hell, here though mainly
a torment through its forcing to mind of
cocks running around unable to crow.


Ghosts 4

The great majority of those who go to
join the Great Majority do just that,
off to their Valhallas or Elysian
Fields. The Departed’s eagerness to
depart, to forget the living, in fact is
quite upsetting, haunts worse than the most
malicious poltergeist. And with so many
more to depart nowadays the main
exit ways can become chaotic, at Cape
Reinga for example talk of a second
tree, such a battle to make it through the
pohutukawa’s root system, all jamming
up sometimes to seem as if the dead might
have to stay behind despite themselves.



David Beach moved from Wellington to Sydney in 1986, then back to Wellington in 2002. He will probably resist the logic of returning to Sydney in 2018. He has banged out four collections of sonnets, with a fifth (the poems here are taken from it) lacking only the minor detail of a publisher.