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Hugh Tolhurst

Point Ormond, Shipless

photos by Richard Briglia

A still haze over the Bay completely shipless
on a bench at a nice distance from kids,

it’s safe to sit with you exhausted dreaming
of maybe writing a long poem about nothing,

or nothing so vital as the shipping,
the passage of containers and of liquid freight,

of Marlboro cartons, crates of Johnny Walker Red.
With what strange lines down stranger maps

do the tines of an ornate comb
brush the pilot’s flourishing moustache?

Walking at dawn you imagine the itinerary of the pilot boat,
a bald wake snaking slowly into shore.

You note that engine’s peculiar clatter, a rumble
as though the streets near water were cobbled,

a tram is heard to turn in the distance.
Tenants here explore this foreshore blearily:

at what weight, what cases,
would you  measure the wines and spirits

my friends have cradled within greatcoat pockets
passing the Elwood Surf Life Saving Club?

Richard Briglia photograph

Long poems are about as thumping
as the surf in Port Phillip Bay,

their authors should be physically restrained,
’Volusius’ Annals, sheets for wiping bums with’

as Catullus put it and it’s a curious thing
that for 2000 years titles of such works have stayed

stark indicators of boredom. I’m told Kinsella
blames his mother for submitting his first book

but how can an urban educated audience resist
the charms of The Silo: a pastoral symphony.

But I digress, there’s no ship in sight
and you think of dropping her again

becoming the sort of person with time
to write the big quiet work, Point Ormond,

Shipless which you ought to rename
because the famous still from the Paul Cox film,

Man of Flowers, might just be available
if someone you know buys a serious lunch.

The verse novelist must achieve fame
largely through cover design.

Richard Briglia photograph

It’s a haunting shot of three male strangers
standing into the middle distance

of moored metallic freighters of Nineveh.
It’s the shot that closes the film

and you cannot imagine Point Ormond’s
mound of green against the grey

without seeing the white beams
of the aircraft recognition beacon

as it stands on celluloid,
the last bastion of all peccadilloes.

Richard Briglia photograph

Too bright the hero, the fashion is
to starve the subject into dispersal

and so the starlets do sound checks,
are constantly clearing their throats

without really murdering the song
and you get this funny public side-effect;

the brilliant, nervous, confused
are those who write poetry

and when you talk to them at parties
they’re not really there

Richard Briglia photograph

It’s not like you actually can suggest
corrections to the course

of the museum-piece battleship
called twentieth century poetry

well not from Port Phillip Bay
rolling Dutch tobacco

underneath Saturday afternoon.
The way to be serious

leads past the Dogger Bank
through the Skagerrak

and calls in at certain Baltic States
before sunny days in St. Petersburg.

This is Part One of the poem ‘Point Ormond, Shipless’.

Part Two appears in Overland magazine # 159, Melbourne, Australia.

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