Peter Olds


At Murdering Beach

Driving through a mob of sheep on the high gravel road
getting caught midway and stopping to yarn with a farmer

till the sheep moved on to another track and the way was clear
down to the beach where, what seemed to us to be seals

rolling in swells, were men floating on boards in black suits
near green-black rocks. Expecting to see a row of canoes

and a beach strewn with axe-heads and shells (the farmer
said it was a good shell beach), found nothing but

unburdened sand and a few live stilts and oyster-catchers
and a dead penguin, its head bent back and throat cut full

of flies half buried in kelp and sand . . . The boy sensed
something: wouldn’t follow the ball into the slimy creek,

wouldn’t go behind flax to pee; preferred to make holes
in sand, then ran naked to the far end of the beach muttering

to himself, wanting food, water, while we looked for traces
of blood, took photos of air and pretended to be somewhere

no one had been before. Wandered through lupins imagining
houses, domestic arrangements, gardens where a village

once stood in the midst of fire. Found blackened stone, pieces
of dinner-plate with blue Chinese Willow design, and holes

where long-beaked birds had dug for maggots under sand
covering some horrible thing.

We had the simplest of picnics: boiled eggs, bananas, fresh
white rolls—threw scraps to sparrows, scanned the hills for tracks,

watched the surfies grind up the gravel hill away from the beach
in their fat green vans loaded down with dripping skins.




Author’s Note


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