June 2021

Arts & Letters

The Properties of Water

By Kate Jennings
Poetry from the late Kate Jennings

1

 

Stamp as you walk on the sand.

It is hot, but not too hot, when hot

is the only alternative.

 

Stand at the water’s edge. A wave tackles

your knees, and you lean against it.

 

Run, lifting your feet high, one after

the other, through the push

and pull, into the midriff of a wave.

 

Gasp your wits together. Quickly,

under the next wave. It fumes,

and your dark head bobs in the swirl.

 

Swim. Roll with an ocean-going gait.

Elbows rib the air with cathedral strokes.

 

This is all the freedom you ever wanted.

 

Over your shoulder, a wave swells.

 

Kick hard, harder, arms windmilling.

The wave rushes you

from deep-water shadows to figurehead triumph.

For a sweet moment, you are the wave.

 

The wave turns bully,

smacks down hard

and tries to drown you.

 

Play possum, lie doggo, let the wave

have its way. It is only sport.

The wave will boil to nothing.

 

2

 

Narrow beans became Narrabeen,

a suburb belly up in the salt and sun.

 

Couch grass presses the pavement apart,

and anything that isn’t flesh, and some

that is, rusts. The beach is as resigned

as a misused wife, and even less forgiving.

 

The lagoon stretches indolent limbs

and casts a calculating eye on the tide.

 

3

 

We surfed until we shone.

Our eyes stung. Our skins smelled of sun.

 

We lapped our way to dreams of Olympic fame

in the pool cemented to the rock of the headland.

 

We trudged from Long Reef to Warriewood and back, uncomplaining explorers in training for life.

 

Narrabeen billows in my memory.

I set sail for innocent times.

 

(Remember Lot’s wife.

And I do. I do remember her.)

 

Stand long enough on the headland looking out,

you see the future.

Kate Jennings

Kate Jennings was a poet, novelist, memoirist, essayist, speechwriter and feminist.

From the front page

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a visit to Adelaide today. Image © Matt Turner / AAP Images

Archer becomes the target

Morrison yet again undermines a female MP, while publicly showing “support”

Image of Anthony Bourdain in Roadrunner. © Focus Features

End of the road: The Anthony Bourdain documentary ‘Roadrunner’

Morgan Neville’s posthumous examination of the celebrity chef hews close to the familiar narrative

Image of test cricket captain Tim Paine announcing his resignation. Image via ABC News

Cricketing institutions are on a sticky wicket

Tim Paine’s sexting scandal reveals more about institutional failures than personal ones

Cover of ‘The Magician’

‘The Magician’ by Colm Tóibín

The Irish novelist’s latest ponders creativity and the unacknowledged life of Thomas Mann

In This Issue

Image of cover of ‘Real Estate’

Grand designs: ‘Real Estate’

Deborah Levy’s latest ‘living autobiography’ finds her travelling and contemplating home, family and art’s revolutionary potential

Image of Dry Cleaning

More than a feeling: ‘New Long Leg’

The deadpan spoken-word vocals of British post-punk band Dry Cleaning are the mesmeric expression of online consciousness

Cover of ‘Secrets of Happiness’

‘Secrets of Happiness’ by Joan Silber

The American author’s Austenesque latest novel, a collage of short stories, traces the common pursuit of happiness through love and money

Image of Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison

Ignoring the gap

The budget shows that the government is not interested in lifting women out of poverty


More in Arts & Letters

Still from ‘No Time To Die’

The Bond market: ‘Dune’ and ‘No Time To Die’

Blockbuster season begins with a middling 007 and a must-see sci-fi epic

Abbotsford I

New poetry, after lockdowns

Bing Crosby and David Bowie on Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, circa 1977.

Oh, carols!

The music of Christmas, from the manger to the chimney

Image of Gerald Murnane

Final sentence: Gerald Murnane’s ‘Last Letter to a Reader’

The essay anthology that will be the final book from one of Australia’s most idiosyncratic authors


More in Poem

Abbotsford I

New poetry, after lockdowns

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Melbourne I

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Broadmeadows

Eating from the dictionary


Online exclusives

Image of Anthony Bourdain in Roadrunner. © Focus Features

End of the road: The Anthony Bourdain documentary ‘Roadrunner’

Morgan Neville’s posthumous examination of the celebrity chef hews close to the familiar narrative

Image of test cricket captain Tim Paine announcing his resignation. Image via ABC News

Cricketing institutions are on a sticky wicket

Tim Paine’s sexting scandal reveals more about institutional failures than personal ones

Craig Kelly addresses protestors outside Victoria's Parliament, 12 November 2021

At the end of our rope

The prime minister’s belated response to death threats against political leaders is a sign of our dangerously hollowed-out politics

Image showing a statue of Lady Justice © Piotr Adamowicz / Alamy Stock Photo

The legal system is failing survivors of sexual violence, so why is it being maintained?

Faced with the choice between a gruelling court process or nothing, victim-survivors are often coming away more bruised from the experience than they were beforehand