Judith Beveridge


At the Bay

I’ve been reeling in my line and casting out, listening
to the waves rap the shells along the shore like a jingle-fitted drum -
but I’ve caught nothing. I think I’d better go back to the boat,
and just watch shore-birds slowly step; perhaps watch them

beat unhurried spondees over the rushes when they fly towards
home. I see the breezes shirr and gather at the water’s
edge where the shoals fold over and over - it makes me
want to stay and cast again, and keep in earshot the crests

that cap and crash quietly with the dusk; to stay and watch
if fish will flash their fire over my head; hear my reel play itself
the way an insect clicks its beats in maddening heat, but
today I may not catch a single fish. Perhaps better just to turn

away, watch the egret put its icy steps along the sand; turn
and step away, let my rod bear each question lightly as I see
the egret flex its feet; step and turn away, content if these
waters hold only reflection, content if they do, or do not tremble.


Spittle Beach
for Andrew Slattery

                It’s cold among the shiftings of shell and sand;
         the rain falling slantwise out at sea. I walk among the pylons,
             fish-scales are stuck to the wood like grey sleet.
                      Far off, a yacht -

                its spinnaker filled with the wind looks as bulbous
         as the vocal sac of a bell toad or a bullfrog. Along the shore -
             weed, and the blunt white shells of cuttlefish;
                      jellyfish like smeared

                globs of glyceride. An octopus, its head like a perfume
         bottle’s puffer, has just squirted a whift of ink, tentacles
             curl in the air like baby fingers while the man hauls it in.
                      Yesterday there was a shoal

                of fish turning through the current like a mirror-clad
         ball, or like a cluster of silver birch leaves in a swirling
             wind; now just the weed rolling, dark shadows
                      from the deep. I walk

                and feel the wind come off the full fetch of the bay.
         Fishermen in the distance are flicking lines out - they are
             spectred by the spume; even the rocks and headland
                      seem ghost-dreamt.

                Soon, more of the wave-peaked sea will reach land -
         breakers give off more spindrift. I walk towards a rock pool
             full of shells and pale anemones. Another octopus
                      rapidly opens and closes -

                a spanning, spinning hand. Near the boathouse
         there’s a washed-up skate, a boy carries it above his head,
             a waiter with a drinks tray. He hurls it back to the sea;
                      it whidders down as quickly

                as a UFO. I walk back where blue bottles wash up
         in clusters of varicose knots, and where the moon seems
             to be a squid-fisherman’s underwater, halogen light
                      trying to burn through.



Judith Beveridge has published three books of poetry all of which have won major prizes: The Domesticity of Giraffes (Black Lighting Press 1987); Accidental Grace, (UQP, 1996) and Wolf Notes (Giramondo Publishing, 2003). In 2005 she was awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for excellence in literature. She lives in Sydney.