Wollongong Sonnets by Quentin Bega

Wollongong Sonnets





“Drowning Tragedies Have Occurred Here”

We strike, tentatively, away from water.

Coarse grass closes on my foot. I fear

This place; a man saw a girl and caught her

Unaware at just this point. The dune

Has stood an age dividing Fairy Creek

From ocean waves while life, like the moon,

Has waxed and waned: a burgeoning or bleak

Retreat as circumstance rolled snakes eyes or sixes.

Pushing through the bush the senses blur

And then the foliage flows to form a rictus-

Pulls us through and into time we swirl

Where tyrant lizard stamped to win and lose

The Earth; exult and then, too late, accuse.





Two factions, gulls, squat down; one in ooze,

The other sand prefers. The canopy

Breaks behind- a black bird arcs to use

The air, the morning under wing, slapping

Down our gazes as it traces in

The wind a portent of the bones the beach

Has hidden ‘til the rumours rolled within

The sea-tongue stripped away the skin revealing…

I did not know the beach had bones or was

So old. My son plays in a pot-hole twice

His size and seeks to know the why, the cause.

The wind whips my coat: I feel the ice.

Beyond the gulls are rising as a hand

Shakes the trees- the squat dune bleeding sand.





This beach is home in summer for that band

Of sybarites who dwell inside the sun

And, surfing, dream of king-waves: timeless, bland

Rejection of our life- seen on the run.

The beach is washed away, a wreck of stone

And weed. The storms exist in time and place

But northwards the surfers run chasing foam

On unspoiled strands: sun on every face.

Schoolboys take their midday break in cars

Their fathers lend and carefully ignore

The desolation; think of girls in bars

And plan the cheap seduction placed before

Their willing eyes: the TV stations nourish

All our baser dreams so they may flourish.





Backed by high-rise flats and units: boorish

Architecture blots the sky behind.

Two cannon point to sea: did there perish

Cruising vessels in a former time?

I think not- every high park near the sea

By regulation, it seems to me, has cannon

Pointing bravely making phantoms flee,

Their bores with litter jammed and kids upon

Their roundness: candid snapshots for the album.

Gulls sweep down to eat discarded food

The council workmen throw to see the fun

As weaker birds are buffeted: a rude

But common spectacle- these gulls have fought

And thrived upon the scraps we leave to rot.




The north end graced by craft that most cannot

Afford (convict labour built the basin)

Best seen, surely, from the picnic spot.

A warning tells of fearful infestation-

Sharks! (they’d have understood the sign.)

We walk along and watch the trawlers run

In toward the southern, working end. A line

Of Norfolk Island pine has swept the sun

Back toward the dune; while out the harbour mouth

The spray, like lace, adorns a shore a million

Miles away. The gulls sweep down then out

As frosty flowers falling from chill

Hands…and all I know has left me- dazed

I turn and scan the basin; stand afraid.





The rocks here; fissured, whorled and splintered gave

Prefiguration to the land before

This city, poised below a frozen wave,

Stamped its uses- like a semaphore

Of silent signals radiating pain

And danger: land will not give up with ease

What aeons shaped and groaning made. In vain

We grasp the shadow, think the substance seize.

Endeavour Drive is patched with wind-blown sand.

I watch surveyors making measurements

While sand-wraiths whisper past unnoticed. Hand

In hand we walk, my son and I: we spent

The day exploring- now it nears its end.

Above, the lighthouse gleams and there we bend. 





Occulting ten times a minute, sending

Light to mariners: avoid red sectors.

The reef and islands to the south sent

Men to liquid doom. The graven vectors

Etched in metal celebrate the voyage

Captain Cook assayed- he didn’t climb

Here: failure jarred his journal’s page

The sun sets, and for the first time

Today the wind drops. Tiny insects

Whir above the commemoration plinth.

A ghostly light on Fairy Creek reflects

And tarnishes the time the dune fought: since

From the water, binding close and near

It gave rise to a future human fear.



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