Published in Cultural on 31 August 2015

Poetry of Sydney Harbour

Last Ferry

Late, inside this windowed room, the moon gone,
the Lade Wakehurst contends in here with each reflected
beam of light – the glass widows of the incandesent
thrown about the dark – and like a ballroom,
swaying from drink and dance, each of the Lady’s
lit windows, arrive, aligned and shipshape,
suspended, see-sawing above my table,
as she travels the triangle between
this room, Manly and the Quay.

By Carol Jenkins

Quay to Mosman

Thirty seven sea gulls halo the Opera House.
The ferry engine thuds in, playing
the water black blue black, now it’s diesel
perfume and the prop’s peristalsis
that laps against the cast of yellow light
from Denison. To the south green stairs
of the Boulevard – a salt crust of light sparks
the shore line by south by sou-east.
North’s a scattering of red and white points.
A navy duck, unlit, like a pause, thwacks past.
A dark gap to the East intensifies
the metal’s clang and rattle, and the pump
gags brine back into the sea.
Wind-blow and bluster, take my cold body
homeward through the fine harbour of this night.

Book Club

I cut it fine, ten minutes house to ferry
someone’s car reverses, I swerve in,
slam the door and sprint.

On the ferry, surprised to see oyu
most convivial of local friends,
you’ve seen my run, my breathless moment,
yours is the quiet watch of everything. I am tempted
to breach protocol and hug you.

We ensconce in talk of books,
the loveliness of Caspar David Friedrich’s
clouds at the NGA, Absent Knowledge,
The French cafe in the Rocks,
one instant I look at a man behind us,
who’s reading what’s left of a book –
covers gone, edges rotten, guttered spine,
pages yellow-browned and thick with damp.

Like a razor, he slivers in,
nearly beautiful in his homeless apparition;
matted hair, scent of mould, mordant gaze
fixed on a rotting page
too real a ghost to be imagined
a man intent and barely visible,
behind us who own homes rich in books
and in ourselves a surfeit of text.

You say later, this is a poem?
I say yes.
You cut it fine, the ferry pulls in,
the water laps. Your friend sits,
starboard, reading something rotten.

World’s Finest Harbour

26th January 1788 ’twas a very auspicious day,
When Captain Arthur Philip
With the first fleet sailed into Botany Bay.
His aim was to start a settlement there,
But the place he discovered was stark and bare.
No good water supply could be found,
It was a very desolate piece of ground.

He sailed up the coast
To the harbour of which Captain James Cook
In 1770 did boast.
And on through the Heads on a glorious day,
across the Harbour to where Circular Quay sits today.

Here was the place he was meant to find,
Across the world, Port Jackson was one of a kind.
Pristine waters, shores studded with green,
Native Flora and Fauna everywhere to be seen.
A settlement was founded here on the banks of the bay;
They would move further inland on another day.

Today vessels, both large and small
Dot the harbour near the shore.
Huge ships, both tourist and commercial,
Sail right to our doors.
Children squeal crossing the heads
with all its spray
Tourists and commuters cross the
Harbour every day.

Islands are scattered around the bay
Inviting picnickers to come and play
One, Fort Denison is an historic sight,
Where convicts were marooned in their plight.
Cockatoo Island is an important venue
Shark, Clarke and Goat Islands
Are pleasant spots to view.
Stylish villages have been built around the
Harbour shore,
There’s Rose Bay, Watsons Bay, Double Bay and
more.

But now we think of 1932
When a great iron bridge came into view.
It joined the Central Business district
To the Northern Side,
Commuters were happy they could cross for the
ride.

The world famous Opera House came later,
What a display,
World identities came to entertain, and play.
All over the world there are harbours to compare,
But such as Our Sydney Harbour
Are extremely
Rare.

By Jeff Hughes and Dorothy Gray.