White, yellow, blue and red.
A stack of photo prints
From my pre-digital, pre-computer life
when the kids were young.
Every emulsion developed shot
of our microtomed day at the beach is there:
out of focus, unframed, untrimmed,
sun bleached, water foxed images
beginning to adhere together,
our papier-mâché yesteryear.
Ice-cream white, lamb’s wool white, cloud white.
Buttercup yellow, egg-yolk yellow, sun yellow.
Forget-me-not blue, cornflower blue, sky blue.
Post-box red, fire-engine red, tractor red.
This was our Dinky toy, buzzy-bee, kiwi summer.
This was our primary coloured,
bright, acrylic trip to Cape Kidnappers.
Our holiday snaps of our blonde-haired kids
with their skinny brown legs
sitting on the trailer behind the big red tractor
are faded now by thirty five years of sun
and the corneal clouding of our eyes.
But still they laugh as the sea washes their bare legs
and still they scamper madly up the steep path
to the gannet colony
with us just a few steps behind.
The gannets then were just the same:
eternally smelly, billing and necking,
orange naped and white jacketed,
soaring like angels
and landing like a bomber with its undercarriage shot away -
the glorious, archetypal gannets.
This year we went again past the vineyards to the sea,
to the end of the road at Clifton
where the bright red tractors live.
The paint on the sea and the sky and the sun
is fresh again,
at least for my granddaughter
who laughs delightedly
as we bump over the reef and careen through the surf.
We stop by the stratified cliffs
While the tractor drivers clear the landslip on the beach.
We survey the cucumber, salami, tomato, club sandwich rocks,
The strawberry, cream and chocolate layer cake
of the stratified cliffs:
A buried forest’s lignite logs,
the sea’s ancient fossil skirts
with scalloped edges,
the ash from a super volcano
in layers so thick
the world was summerless for years.
Each eruption in this waffle stack
might have been a hundred thousand years apart,
yet here they lie compressed
in my milles-feuilles filo pastry cliffs.
And tomorrow the next ash might fall
and obliterate the international golf course on the bluffs above.
In the mirror of geological time
we humans on the beach with our tiny tractors
are the most recent of ephemera
though we bring our grandchildren here for generations.
My grand-daughter scampers merrily
up the steep track to the gannet colony
on the high plateau, my daughter hard on her heels.
I toil laboriously up the track,
stopping to wheeze and catch my breath
and on the way back down my knees are killing me.
But the gannets are still the same:
eternally smelly consorts of plesiosaurs,
soaring like dragons,
landing like hippopotamuses,
Leaving their fledged chicks
to fly unescorted across the Tasman,
that widens millimetre by year,
metre by millennium,
until Australia crashes into India.
On the drive back
my grand-daughter falls asleep
across the comfort of my lap
and I daren’t move
as we bump over the rocks and reefs
although my back is crucifying me.