1. Two – A gull’s eye view
A boy on a board
A drunk in the dunes
Alone with the sea and sand and sky
And their stories – Two
Effects of a cause
But let us pause
Turn time backwards half a day
Backwards say
To when he picked him up
Thumbing a lift
Holding his board on the Frankston Road
On a workday morning
And He, the elder,
The whiskey bottle wrapped
An ashamed and unadmitted possibility
Had thought ‘Why not?’
As memories of the Back Beach
Lured him with remembered solitude
And He, the younger,
Was grateful for the ride
Impatient for the surf
To wash away the memory of the interview.
A chat, small talk, nothing of consequence
The man morose, the boy inarticulate
Nothing in common, or so they thought.
Unable to explain – Hardly aware
Of the bond between them.
Victims of the same social statistic.

2. Paddling out – The wet suit wet
Leg rope secure to the fish-finned board
Choppy in the shallows – and now a wave
Up – Up – and over
And now the next – breaking early
A flurry of foam
A surging tumbling roll
And safely through
Paddling further out
To where the sea humps over the bar
And the waves form
Offering a ride inshore
If you are quick enough
If you are good enough
If they accept you!
An interview with the Sea.

And if you miss the wave
The Sea drops you down
Down into a trough
And says ‘I’ll let you know’
And ‘Try again later’.
There are many more fish in the sea
And surfers
And waves
And the salt in his eyes
Is sea-water of course.
And the boy blinks
Looking backwards over his shoulder
Awaiting the perfect wave.

3. The man has unwrapped his bottle
Secure in his sandy hollow.
Nothing to see but the sea
Nothing to see him.
Peering between the tussocks
At the fool boy on his board.
Idle young bludger
What these kids need is a good days work.
Work! That’s a laugh!
And he takes his first drink
The warm amber spreading in quick runnels
Like the foam on the sand,
A purposeful seeking of the hurt within.
After thirty-five years
The climb from office boy to manager
The systems introduced – The filing system
Colorcoded
A place for everything
Everything in its place
And Now! . . .
He takes a second drink – A toast
‘To Hell with computers’
A third drink to celebrate his cupro-nickel handshake
After Thirty-five Years.
And he sinks mumbling onto his stomach in the coarse sand
Blinking his swimming eyes
Watching the boy on the board.

4. The boy has caught his wave.
All is forgotten in the urgency of the moment.
He hears the sea speak through the soles of his feet
Approving his application.
As he slides in perpetual free fall
Along the breast of the wave
He signs his contract with the sea
No longer unemployed.

5. But the man in the dune is drunk too soon.
Gone are his grievances
Gone his troubles
Gone his consciousness
Gone …
And he lies in a foetal position
The bottle clasped spilling to his chest
And should he vomit he may die
Choking
Unheard by the boy who hears only the sea
Unheard by those who over the years
Heard him pontificate
When he was SOMEONE
Holding forth on the State of the Nation
And the need for Law and Order
By seniority Head of his table
In the executive lunch room
Before the Take-over
Before the computer
Before his redundancy
Before his bottle on the beach.
6. And there we shall leave them.
Two units lost to the workforce
For the man will never work again
And the boy
Refused too often.
Commits his future to the surf and sand
Never to try again.
And the Central Computer
Will blip – ERASE – ERASE
And, in a millionth of a second,
Amend the statistical average
And they will not exist
The Dispossessed.
H.St.V.Beechey.

First published in “Ten Poems”

By The ACTU. I979

Commended Poem Mary Gilmore Poetry Competition I979