“Living next to the sea was like having tragedy for a neighbour”

Opera, in a school hall, the voices impossible
and good, sudden throng of them lost in the bad
acoustics, singers singing to a feeling 
they haven’t felt yet. Ten or eleven, some
have swum in all the sea’s moods already and only
ever fancied the idea of it, Love as 
abstract to them as Truth or Death, something 
that happens to other people. The organ 
pedalling it, divine croak as if filled 
with sand, that church-type enthusiast, teacher
visibly sweating, not much good with his fingers—
We like sheep—in the mind of children
just a preference. All we like sea, too, tragedy
which happens someplace else in the truncating
deep, red blot in blind fluid, distending. It 
comes to us. No, it is there, I, here—
it comes to us, this evening cold up
to our ankles in it, cool tug of it, we find it
like wave-worn shells, flint, some fossil
of it—things that shook the body now smoothed 
down jetsam, drift words embarrassing to say.
I take them home in my pocket (Love Truth Death).

This poem was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 56, 2021.
The title of “Living next to the sea was like having tragedy for a neighbour” is a quote from Chapter 3, “Elias Smith comes… and goes,” of Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria (Giramondo, 2006). With thanks to Giramondo for kindly granting permission to reproduce this line.
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