Where grass buries the seedling trees,
Where seagulls flap against the breeze,
sitting on a hill one hill back from the ocean
as the sea birds flap two feet above us
trying to catch the currents of air to set them into flight.
Where the air currents blow fiercely up the hill
rocking the pole house on stormy nights
as the cows mooed, gathering together
encircling the house wind-maddened.
It was a time to stay in
with candles the only light.
There was no electricity on this island of grass.
The trees long since lopped.
Sleeping when it got dark or trekking the hills
in the moonlight,
drinking Old Stoney ginger beer to keep us warm
as we gazed upon the waters with the moonlight on it.
One New Year a gateway of light drew near
coming off the sea right up to me
bathing my head with moonlight. What future
would light upon me I wondered?
We wandered like gypsies, it took a day to encircle
the island. I was clad in a white silk slip embroidered
with dragons, wearing jewel toned earrings, our faces
painted white, playing at being players.
Scooping the sea smoothed glass from the shallows,
red, yellow, green, blue
while “S” younger brother found old bottles in the low tide
near the run down house, once a mansion
now scribbled inside with psychedelia.
“S” collected the bones of a goat and a cow,
The island brought offerings and took away others
melting and deepening the shadows that stalked us
at seventeen and nineteen.
“S” was two years older than me. He lived in a haunted house with a staircase so narrow you had to walk sideways down the steps. He had a skinny punk rock cat, and a smokers compulsions, once swapping a calculator for his beloved camel cigarettes. The calculator lasted twenty years, our relationship eighteen months.
We lived through a seesaw of depression, first one, then the other, then saving the other, both lost, both fighting our pasts. I could not touch his physical heart, he would cry out in pain from his mother’s rejection. He was brought up by her sister in a foreign land down under, but he kept his Irish charm.
He would hide from the sun preferring to stay indoors, and I who had lived near the beach and had a healthy tan spent from a lifetime outside, went from tanned to as pale as him in one summer.
He loved eating bacon and eggs and would go to a place I knew later as ‘greasy spoons’.
On his table at home he always kept a bottle of worcestshire sauce to douse his fried food in.
After breakfast we would scour the shops for second hand finds. He collected secondhand penguin books with their classic orange covers searching for first editions.
His treasures were an old art deco radiogram and a picture of Medusa cutting off a man’s head.
I would search the shops for second hand dresses and coats. He took photographs of me wearing a 1940’s burgundy coat with my red roman sandals crossing a road, and in a diamond green dress which made me feel dreamy. We never thought to wash them first before wearing them, perhaps we absorbed something of their owner in them. I tried to imagine their owners and what they were like and often gave names to my dresses personalising them.
Our relationship ended in the grey twilight on the bleached boards of a small wharf. The boards looking rotten and broken so I was scared to step upon them. “It is over” he said. He did not have to say it twice. I did not try to stop him fading into the twilight of a winters day. What I had taken as love was mere convenience to him.
Penny was a small sandy haired girl who studied to be a lawyer but was more suited to being a seamstress where her skill lay. I could not imagine how she would have the strength to be heard in court with her quiet little girl voice and small stature.
She and her sister shared a plot of land on Rakino Island. Their father built them a small hut with a deck. So once again in my twenties I could take the long journey in a small boat to this island of grass with Penny. We would pack Paul Newmans sauce to go with the pasta we would cook. All supplies had to be carried in.
She told me the ferryman wanted to marry me one night after he had knocked on the door inviting us to a party of crayfish and wine, but we were already snug in our sleeping bags. It was nighttime so we declined.
I imagined being a writer and queen of this domain. The beaches called me with their clear waters. The many walks I could take exploring this hilly island. But the ferryman was short and round with curly dark hair who dressed in blue overalls and did not appeal to me.
We visited a man who had a dream to have a house and olive groves and so it grew. He showed us the tin kennel overlooking a bay he had slept in before his dream materialised. He offered us cheese and olives. Here was a man I could imagine myself with but it was not to be. He was an advertising man with many dreams.
He opened a cafe in the city called Rakino’s which had island shaped tables and his hand picked olives.
With Penny we often talked about relationships and marriage, as we were in our twenties. She talked about Sidney who she had a crush on who lived in Sydney. And the man she was with who was well off but a pall hung over his house, his alcoholic mother. Would Penny ever be satisfied? And is that what I shared with her was this sense of dissatisfaction with our lives.
Rakino still calls me. This island haunts me as it was a part of my teenage years and twenties. I have lost touch with “S” and Penny by moving to a bigger island Australia.
It is a part of my first struggles with relationships, which I continue to struggle with today.
I painted a small water-colour painting of Rakino Island today and this is where these words come from.