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October 2013, vol 8, no 3

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Jane Fraser

Towards Burry Holms

The boardwalk ends at Diles Lake and we take the sandy path through the burrows that leads to the beach. You lag behind, me dragging you, your dimpled hand clutching mine, as once your mother did, as my mother did mine. It's a hard grind, tiring on legs, young and old. Our flip-flops squeak on the fine dry sand, leaving the slightest impressions of our mark. Even in June, the south-westerly breeze erases our presence in a puff, our footprints sprinkled-over by the shifting grains.

among the dunes
marram grasses sway
embracing the future

We linger just before the stream reaches the sea. The shallow water here entices still, its banks held back with pebbles and nets of wire. In you go, wading knee-deep, into the clear water that's rushing on its way. But you have all day. A life-time even to paddle and dabble in its mystery. I sit and watch you play. "Let's do pouring, you say." "OK, I'll fill, you pour." So with your red plastic bucket I labour, as you empty the fill away, watching it drain into the stream and out to sea. And so it goes on. At the edge of the stream, I look back and see my home now, through the gap in the dunes. I look forward, and see me reflected in your eyes.

nose pressed to a jam-jar
filled half-full,
where tadpoles thrash

Time to move on. We have a lot of ground to cover, you and me. Leaving the shelter of the dunes, we pick our way together across the pebbles and on to the expanse of hard, damp sand. "That's better," you sigh. Limbs feel easier now. We are walking towards the Holms, two little pilgrims, pulled by this lump of holy land that when the tide is full, rises like a turtle out of the sea. The sun is in our faces; the wind at our backs. You scuttle like a crab with the force of it. If I don't take care of you, anchor you with the weight of my hand, you could sail away.

stripped bare of flesh,
bleached timbers of a wreck
nudge through the sand

Along the strand line, you scrunch and scour through shells; cockles, clams, mussels, razors. You pick up a mermaid's purse; crack black pods of bladder-wrack between your tiny finger-tips; discard a desiccated crab-back. We laugh but decide not to sit in the empty armchair that's just there, somehow, facing out to sea. We'll wait.

At Spaniard Rocks, we reach journey's end, bed-down in the soft sand, our backs against the flat slabs of limestone worn by the years, warmed by the sun. You are the fourth generation to sit in this spot. "It's hot," you say, "toasty." And then we're silent, you and I, looking back at how far we've come, wondering perhaps how much further we have to go.

conch pressed to your ear.
will you hear me calling you
across the sea's divide?