Gillespie’s Beach


Once this moonscape must have been a plain
spread at the sea’s teeth, tangled with bush,
now pools and hillocks topped with scrub and grass
tremble in the wet Antarctic wind,
snarled and snapped at by the southern seas.

Bleached sand, betrayed by bands of black
brought gold-fever to this dripping coast:
Chinamen with their ancient patient skill
seeking the wealth to make them lords at home,

gold men with their massive iron machines,
dredger and sluice to raze and wreck the land.
Now giant iron pipes, great cog-wheels,
and rusting boilers lie in the pools;
history’s rubbish dying in the sand.

To the south the graveyard on the mound
murmurs the names of those who died for gold
with broken iron rail and tilted stone
and Chinese marks upon a wooden board.

On flying sands bleached by time’s wild wind
and salted by the frenzied ocean’s reach
the bones of trees that fell before their time
washed down the raging canyons to the coast
strike their disjointed graveyard on the beach.


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