Elegy for Walter Walkey

Coming to a dead end
I get out of the car
and look over the shore.

It is low tide.
Flat-bottomed boats lie
becalmed on the mud,
the inky-blue waves
nipped to white
by the west wind’s cold.

A teenage kid
drives in bumpy circles
round a paddock
in an old Ford,
throwing up dust.

The oyster shed is abandoned,
just a few racks
left in the debris.

In the shadow by the bridge
where the creek slides into bay,
a blue heron
poses a question mark.

No question but
this place was made for me
by Walter and Doris
who once lived here.
They could make the waves dazzle
even on a winter’s day,
point out the beauty of their garden
on the birded shore.

I miss the old workshop,
now roller doored  garage,
where Walter crafted wood on his lathe
with a firm hand, keen eye,
all gone like the garden bed
Doris made in his memory.

I can’t forget
how she bent over the coffin,
to place at the head
flowers from their garden,
speaking to him softly
like a mother to her baby.

How many times over thousands of years
have the sounds of mourning risen here
all the way from humpies
with no workshop but the shore,
no garden but the bush,

to the mansion of the white invaders
commanding the high ground,
its verandas now sagging
under bougainvillea tangles?

I strike out across the stubbly grass
for a fresh look at the bay.

The blue heron
finds exciting things
in the weed under its feet.
Two pelicans bask on the strand
which the tide washes new.

I catch sight of red geraniums,
outrageous escapees,
brilliant against sedges,
robust, courageous, full of life,
and pick some in memory of the garden,
and Walter.

 Jean Talbot

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