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.