Judith Beveridge has published three books of poetry all of which have won major prizes: The Domesticity of Giraffes (Black Lighting Press 1987); Accidental Grace, (UQP, 1996) and Wolf Notes (Giramondo Publishing, 2003). She is the poetry editor of Meanjin. In 2005 she was awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for excellence in literature. She currentlyteaches poetry at post-graduate level at the University of Sydney and at post-graduate and undergraduate level at the University of Newcastle. She has edited UQP’s The Best Australian Poetry 2006 as well as co-edited anthologies from the Newcastle Poetry Prize, Sunweight (2005) and The Honey Fills the Cone (2006).
There is a fish called flower of the wave
and a fish called the hardyhead. There is
the parrotfish, the pineapple fish, the boarfish
the bullhead shark. There’s the rough flute
mouth, the toothy flathead, the two spot
bristle tooth and the yellow sabretooth blenny.
At night I study. At night I learn sixty-two
types of wrasse. I learn there’s the glass fish,
the globe fish, the goat fish and an eastern
and southern gobble guts, both left-eyed
and right-eyed flounders, a rhinoceros
file fish, a racoon butterfly fish, a grub fish,
a tear-drop sleeper goby, a robust pygmy
star-gazer and a half and half puller. There’s
a fish called happy moments. But I haven’t
found it yet. I haven’t found the right one.
The name I can throw back at Davey when
in a voice flat as oil, he calls me: “sweetlips”.
Despite a headache, stationary all day, unable to decay;
despite these reels ticking again into the gradient
of each throb; my eyes feeling as fragile as snow-domes
in the hands of a fractious child; my head grading all
the grains of sand shunted southwards again by a week
of black katabatic winds; despite the yachts tinkling,
calling like knives on goblets for silence as the tide
dumps another load of kelp around my head – I feel
happy, calm; and for a moment I love the feel of hessian
weather on my arms and legs. I love being with Davey
who smells like an old fish trough, stubble on his chin
sharp as wrasse’s teeth. I love the lighthouse on the cliff-top
as it holds the stupefied position of a pocket chesspiece.
I know another distress flare might soon find its passage
through the nerves my head manipulates, that an onshore
of jagged air push isobars back; that lightning’s filamented
pulse rig more cordage for my head. I know the veins
in my head will tighten, distort, bend again like lines
trying to dislodge a snag, that nausea will head for a dry
berth in my throat – but now, I fix my bait, spit out my beer
as if it had become as tasteless as the brackish Baltic
and I reel my line in. I know the creels must come in despite
blood on the charts, the pounding of cruel encephalitic winds.
I drag the rod back, it arcs like a dolphin scudding on its tail,
and I’m happy, calm, fishing again here with Davey.
We’re almost doing the limbo bringing our lines in.