The Shell Collector

Plastic rustles in my grip.

I smell salt breezes:

One million shells to collect.

I’m ready for conches, scallops,

Fingernails and cones,

Abalone rainbows and

Shells in delicate pink.


The first into my bag:

Fifteen butts of cigarettes,

Littered on the grass

Where my baby sister played

And picked them up.


The next:

A bottle, ready for breaking

Shattering through sand

That soft skin will tread

Ready to be rounded


Into prettier pieces.


And then:

A release of balloons

Flat and floppy

Coloured like jelly,

A terminal

Turtle’s banquet.


I don’t leave the beach

With shells

But I leave it with sand

Clean as conscience.



My sister dances and twirls

Burnt leaf from the 2020 Australian bushfires, Sapphire Coast NSW

like a burnt leaf in the wind,

crackling with laughter.

She snatches and catches

at strange black objects

stark against mandarin skies.


A sieve of ash

like icing sugar topping a cake

sprinkles our shoulders

and I can’t help but think:

it’s a forest falling upon us

and everything in it turned to dust.


As Mum packs boxes in the car

(a Tetris game with photos, laptops, pyjamas, toys)

I unpack new boxes of fear:

things that never frightened me before,

like a whisking west wind

and a warm summer’s day.


As I pick pieces of fern

from frizzled hair

my sister starts spluttering.

I run to pat her back.

‘It’s like catching snowflakes,’ she says.

‘But you shouldn’t use your tongue.’