Aldinga Cliffs SA

There’s no getting away from things.
There is driving, then walking miles
along a quiet coast on a rising tide — 
with the back-of-the-mind consciousness
that in an hour or so the sea
will have reached the cliffs of shale
with their pebble threads to denote other epochs
of Earth events and that you will be wading in water
on return. There is walking the distance to see
the Monarch butterflies mating, their wings
like stained glass windowpanes, and you wonder
who is upside down, the male or the female,
and do they notice, and you think of the fine detail
of pleasure that such creatures achieve in coitus,
assuming there is allure and pleasure
for them to come together at all,
the western light of the sun going down
over the ocean lighting up the orange mosaic
inside the black craze and you have to draw
attention into that feral beauty and not notice
it is sea spurge and invasive weeds
that are their lover’s beds in the cove in the cliff
and that the cliffs themselves
are being eaten away by the ocean and wind and rain,
by runnels and rivers that have not soaked into earth
because the land for miles has been razed of its trees
and scrub and native grasses, and overgrazed
so that topsoil has followed rainwater down to the sea.
Again, you give your attention to the mating Monarchs,
and when the light evaporates them, you look instead
at the colours and pattern and texture of the shingle
beneath your feet, a sacred ground it might be,
with its volcanic stones suffused with golden hieroglyphs,
or wrapped with white silk on black or pink or navy blue,
the embossed, the smooth, the Japanese, the expressionist,
the Fred Williams and Clarice Becketts, meanwhile
the sun sliding close to the horizon like a Beckett sky itself,
and you try to avoid or appreciate the way it lights up plastics:
drinking straws and bottle tops, nylon strings and frayed ropes,
hairbands and bits of bags.                At all times
there is this living with what some of us have done,
there is this under-the-skin knowing
and a constant trying to say that it will all work out,
trying not to let hope crack like ancient stones,
like the lead lines in the stained-glass pattern
of the Monarch wings —