Vanua Levu Island, Fiji

Margaret Bradstock

 

He paces a few steps, crouches before

a silvery tideline, hands beginning

to dig the black sand. This is the post

of my old house, he says. In the 1960s

it stood back from the seaside

where he’d jump the narrow estuary

and run past mangrove forests,

fringed coconut palms, to school.

 

With summer’s king tides advancing,

a broad tongue of shallow water

spilling across the land

the children had to swim to school,

families without boats built rafts

the poor man’s ark −

to leave their houses, foundations warping

in the salty soil.

 

The village was on the move.

At the new site, thirty green bungalows

dot the hillside, gardens and fish farms

keep them busy, more villages earmarked

to relocate, like the old woman

who carries the sun

and the moon in her string bag

to plant in the sky.

 

Below, abandoned structures remain

as the jungle slowly swallows them;

a warped door flaps open, the canted ribcage

of the old school eaten away by salt

and tropical damp. Trees are few, branches

strewn like giant bird bones, rising sea levels

erode the tangled roots.

How high the mountain.

 

Margaret Bradstock has six published collections of poetry, including The Pomelo Tree (winner of the Wesley Michel Wright Prize) and Barnacle Rock (winner of the Woollahra Festival Award, 2014). Editor of Antipodes: poetic responses to ‘settlement’ (2011), Margaret won the national Earth Hour poetry competition in 2014, and the Banjo Paterson Award in both 2014 and 2015.

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