• Stephen Edgar

Pictures in the Water

Off Cobblers Beach perhaps, or Washaway—
An idle question now—
They rowed, and paused, and posed in turn, that day
On Middle Harbour, taking photographs—
Here, she leans back against the prow,
Holding her bonnet to her cheek, and laughs—
Expecting to replay

These moments, which the pictures would replace
(And be, as like as not,
Stored and forgotten soon in any case).
In any case, this interlude and idyll,
Whatever, one day, they forgot,
Went on forever, looked at from the middle
Of this unbounded space.

Here’s one of him: his feet up on a thwart,
In strangely formal shoes,
Hands on his knees, his elbows for support
Propped on the gunwale. But most of them show her,
His bride in two months. And war strews
Its dead through Europe. Let what will occur;
Let time to come abort:

They’ll marry anyway and he will go.
At last they must begin
The long way back and take the oars and row—
Facing what’s passed (as history’s angel must,
We’re told by Walter Benjamin),
While for the future into which they thrust
They have their backs on show.

No other day but this. But the vault of sky
Repeated in the water
Is being shattered by the oars they ply.
Their wedding and the day he went away,
His flights above the fire and slaughter,
From which he came with all his life to pay,
Their years, which would belie

What they’d imagined for each other’s sake,
And then her years alone:
Over the sun-glossed caps that slap and break
Against the oars and hull, these flakes and glints
Scattered from time to come are blown—
So bright that if you tried to look you’d wince—
And swirl past in the wake.




Cinéma Vérité

This ochre fog of inland, which the wind
Has lifted from itself, has wrapped the coast
Like Christo, and is folding up the city

In individually taken snaps—
A jetty in a bay, a single walker
Beneath the bough of that Port Jackson fig,

The three-arched vista from a beach pavilion
With its unpeopled benches—storing them
In sheets of tissue of dust-printed light

To make the day remember. Like those plates
By Ansel Adams bedded in a box
In someone’s attic, each a glassy slice

Of time and place recovered and transformed
Into the future, so these random moments
And scenes are fixed, arranged and understood,

Or no, not understood, but held in mind,
A weight of reference and felt perception
Solidifying out of the thin air.

Like dust that settles on the cornea,
They settle on the memory: an ibis
Trying to prise apart a plastic tub

Of salad; that vast evening continent
Of cloud, its coastline mapped in gold by sun;
The early-sixties pink convertible

Behind the shut glass doors of an antiques shop
On Parramatta Road, and next to it
A Thai-style seated Buddha; or the film crew

Only a few doors down and all set up
Among the traffic and pedestrians—
The camera, tripod, microphone and wires,

Those black equipment cases, on one of which
The reporter, a young woman, stands, impatient
To start recording who knows what event,

Which, as they wait here, they have now become.