For Miranda

For twenty months now, each day has been an island

borne away to the void by the grizzled surf of night.

On sunny days I hear echoes

of you and your brother playing in the sand dunes.

They say this beach is a healing place.

I sit in my hermitage writing up a sea mist,

and when I climb the stile to Great Oyster Bay,

I find the beach occluded.

I have begun to think magically, writing back to the day

when I should have rung your mobile

to ask how are you were going.

Found work yet?

Where are you staying?

Enjoying yourself?

Love you, honey,

and clicked off.

A few trite sentences, a few seconds delay

and you would not have been in that place

at that exact time.

The truck would have passed safely.

I walk the beach with downcast eyes,

remembering the cowrie you held triumphantly aloft,

then showed me spottings of brown on its white edging.

You knew the value of the world’s first currency

long before I did.

I used to wonder if you’d been here before.

Now I wish I’d learned more from you.

I look for cowries where you discovered yours,

in loose white sand where the sea bursts

through the narrow channel and pools in the lagoon.

Often I see bones, their marrow bleached to lace work,

their decay transformed to beauty

by sun and saltwater, by wind and time.

Sometimes I collect chiton shells.

Awed by their jungle mask patterns,

I take them home to my window shelf,

but their power soon blanches,

reminding me to leave your memory on the beach,

glistening in the retreating tide.

I stoop to inspect fans of doughboy scallops,

and marvel at their vibrant colours

and the way that a fractal fan angles out

from the parent’s hinges.

Their whole and the part are equal casualties

to the remorseless of tide and time.

Once I stooped only to perfection,

these days I am learning to love fragments.

Cutaways of whelk and turban shell,

their exposed spirals drilling down

to wherever it is that you are now.

Your childhood, which barely breached

The cusp of adulthood,

has now become your whole.

I see you in the quarter moon,

your unlived life as unlit lunar territory

which is as present as your absence.

I hear your joy in a shard of abalone shell

upturned to the nacreous sunset,

although its jagged edges cut and wound.

I feel you as a phantom limb,

a lopped branch on my family tree

that aches and creaks in frosty shadows.

They say this is a healing beach,

and as the grizzled surf of night

bears each day away to the void,

I hold the fragment of your life in mine

honouring your spirit,

the sweet mischief of a ragged smile.

This poem was written for my beloved daughter, Miranda (6 October 1988 – 13 October 2006). Miranda was born in Hobart and died in a vehicle accident in the south west of Western Australia, a week after her eighteenth birthday. You can read more about Miranda on my memorial page, here.

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