Elaine

My father was thirty eight when he died

I was barely seven

Mother took me to Spain to ease the pain

Help the healing and never forget

His death had crushed her heart

Part of mine too at the time

The soft white sand slipped through our toes

The cloudy night covered the stars

Transformed them into lost diamonds in the dark

My sunburnt skin itchy beneath my souvenir shirt

 

And then the rain came straight from the heavens

Her sad face and wet hair a sight I would never forget

I found a tiny shell and she held my hand

The castaway clasped between our palms

A momento mori of what was to come

For mother and son

 

For years after she would take me walking in the rain

Walking in the rain with Elaine we would sing

Just like the song

The tiny shiny shell always came too

Clutched between our dripping hands

Sometimes warm

Sometimes frozen

 

One day she tried to wake me from my teenage dreams

But I was growing tired of walking with Elaine in the rain

So she went on her own

And never returned

 

After searching for several days they found her body

She was bloated and floating face down in the local river

Partly wedged under a fallen tree

Somewhat hidden from public view

There was rumour it was murder

But I knew just how much her life had been blighted by grief

Since Dad had passed away exactly ten years before

 

We drove to the Chapel of Rest in Uncle Don’s white van

And there she was

All peaceful looking in her long wooden box

Her hands folded neatly across her chest

Like a sleeping martyr I guessed

I reached into my pocket and found the tiny shiny shell

I kissed it gently for a lingering moment and lovingly

 

Leaning over the coffin pushed it under her cold fingers

Safely wedged in the palm of her right hand

The hand that held mine when we went walking in the rain together

 

Here

Take this Mum, I whispered

And when you meet with Dad

Wherever that might be

Take a walk in the sunshine

And maybe think of me

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Sand Flies and Tea Tree Oil

I remember your face so well but then
your picture has travelled with me
down through the decades
28th March 1987 – almost thirty years ago
you must be what, forty now?
I don’t even know your name
never took the trouble to write it down
you passed me with your mum and dad
their 4×4 robust compared with my very
unsuitable 400cc Suzuki road bike
not the ideal transport on an undulating
sandy track through Aussie rainforest
four hours to cover six kilometres!
the whole campsite cheered when I appeared
that’s one amazing thing I’ve achieved
although at the time I was scared shitless
as the light faded and my confidence waned
but it was worth it just to find that beach
and the Cherry Venture wreck
sharing food and camp fires
magical moments that stayed with me forever
I wonder how they shaped your life
young boy with the cheeky smile
all covered in sand in your Lufkin hat
do you remember being stung in the sea
and my tea tree oil took away the pain and tears
the sand flies were a menace too
big fat bastards but easily swatted
if you kept your wits about you
and let them settle before thwacking them dead
it all seems such a long time ago
a distant echo on so many waves
a million tides of crashing surf
I hope life turned out well for you?

beach boy2

(Tea tree oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, which is native to Southeast Queensland and the Northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. It was virtually unheard of in the UK back in the eighties but is now globally widely used in many products for its antimicrobial properties despite evidence in its favour being low, according to Wikipedia. This poem links back to my previous posts on the The Cherry Venture wreck if you skip around my little Haiku Hiking interlude. Where to next I wonder).

The Cherry Venture Adventure

rusted ribs resist the salvage attempts
prefer instead the salted licks of coral seas
a battered sand blown year long deterioration
rivet by rivet    sand fly bitten
the tourists come    snap    gawp    marvel
climb aboard Jonahs on three night camp outs
four by four they land cruise up coloured sands
utes    jeeps    barbecued fleets of sun kissed cheeks
name one amazing thing you’ve done
and then move on.

CV7

Looking back I was lucky to stumble upon my Cherry Venture Queensland adventure for she is sadly no more. Finally broken by wind and wave she relented to the salvage man’s cutting gear and only the buried hull remains. But she has her own Wikipedia tribute page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_Venture

and for some downright Down Under weirdness you surely cannot beat this – six months in a leaky boat haha: