FOR NICK MASTERMAN 1948 – 1994

I

the sound of your going

the bow slices the treacle sea
not silent but silenced     sluiced

delirium    struggle easily down
the slow descent
a valuable lost overboard
gravity affirmed

the way I imagine you
doing it    going
challenging how it might
be best achieved     how
it might be improved

II

ship’s bells surely heard    surely rung
the harbour at night
its own reassurance

the sure lie
lights on the water
at night surely lying
the great pretence
gaiety    a trick caught
by the slick sludge

as we grow older
our bodies become so predictable

no longer caring for
what we can no longer do

III

the funnel of your mind tipping
its eclectic contents in a clatter
like so much disassembled junk

we could no more understand
what passed from you as language
as we could understand your pain

words dropping from your cracked lips
like so much dust lumps
foretelling your immediate future

each word    partly formed    setting
like concrete in great chunks
a jigsaw of sound at your feet

we can at least begin to comprehend
the breadth of your knowledge
the intricacy of your understanding

IV

the way the tide cuts deepest
against the sandstone seawall

the wall crumbling
the reclaimed land reclaimed
by the harbour

the way the tide cut
the best bream hole
on the harbour

flush with the flash
of bream hooked in moonlight
another treasure caught
in the spanner of your mind

lost now like quicksilver
like phosphorescence
slipping through your fingers

your life drained from us
breath by shallow breath

V

I fly into Sydney
on your death
the city ringed with flame

all the way down the coast
the night forest sprouted
angry rings of red
eruptions on the skin
of the mountainside
the forest spat its anger
oceans could not extinguish