Rose Bay in the past, maybe

The waves of my mind toss up rough, quartz thoughts: witches talismans that catch the light, imagined slivers of pictures get stuck in its rocky cracks, tangled in seaweed spools of words –

All I want is to swim in the clear salt water, dive limber through the waves.

In the morning I find shellfish in the rocks down the sandy path from my house. I gather them in the rough wool of my shawl, closed up, pursed little creatures in the greens and browns of the wool, loosening little drops of smeared water. I eat overlooking the harbour.

There are white sails.

The word “Billows.”

The place I feel most joyful is on the shore. At high tide I love the clear waves washing over rocky banks of oysters, the bubbles like the little imperfections in the glass windows of the finer houses. At low tide I unclamp their jaw like cavities with a rusty knife and a rock. The soft, salty slip of them a delight in my throat. I love the easy abundance of this place – shining fish on my silver line, their flesh sweet.

Jacob comes. He talks. His family are in England, in a big, fine house. It is a green place, he says, fields are cut up neatly. We are walking down towards the beach, still awkward with one another, holding our arms and necks stiffly. I pluck a gum leaf from a branch as we pass – tear it open between my fingers and touch them to my face to smell the green scent. I do this because I am unsure of him, especially when he speaks of home. Jacob leaves in the afternoon, back to the town and the taverns. I sit and watch the sun set over the harbour. There is a rushing sound of water on sand. The tide is coming in. The sky is golden and crimson and makes a path of light straight to me over the cold steel blue of the water. Seagulls fly in to the beach, their wings illuminated. When they land they tip up at the last moment so their wings are vertical. They are the shape and colour of angel’s wings. Maybe this is where they got the idea of heaven from: these gleaming colours, the light filling everything.

This is happiness I think – a delicate, carefully balanced and wavering thing.

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