Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 173, You never know what effect you have on others. Several years after returning to Northern Ireland, I attended a reading of poems, at the New University of Ulster at Coleraine, by a Wollongong poet who told me afterwards that he had been inspired to pick up the pen and start writing poetry from reading the crown of sonnets I had written which were published in a small magazine entitled, Poems in Public Places in 1978. And he was already on a reading tour of the UK! So, as we enter the third year of the pandemic, remember, you count, and you should never underestimate the positive impact you may make on others, unbeknownst to yourself. Now let us return to the narrative.
Where will I go now? Perhaps Australia, but no…no…/It beat me too. Quietly leaving through the glass door/At the front I walk to the shore. Remembering with pain/The lost years. I put it in a poem, the only one ever published./Crown of sonnets, crown of thorns. Beaten and leaving,/ My friends published it- favour or good riddance gesture?
I TRAVERSING THE DUNE
“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.
II ALONG THE BEACH
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 pothole 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
III AT NORTH BEACH PAVILION
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.
IV BATTERY PARK
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.
V BELMORE BASIN
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.
VI WOLLONGONG HEAD
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.
VII THE LIGHTHOUSE
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.
Although I’ve dabbled in verse over the years and decades since I wrote these sonnets, I have not found the time or motivation or confluence of forces that would produce something as complex as the crown of sonnets I wrote all those years ago. I keep telling myself to get into the habit of always keeping a notebook handy to set down such thoughts, but, in my usual desultory, dilatory fashion, I invariably put it off until mañana. Which, as we know, never comes.
Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text
For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition