Debbie Robson, North and South


The surf is loud tonight, almost crashing
on the shrubs in her front yard and up
the sloping lawn with frothy white
fingers. But it is back, far back beyond
six lanes of highway, across a lake
and waits there on a yellow stretch
of sand. She hears the crash of it while
lying awake with a husband long asleep.
She feels sure the waves will wash
away the sadness she wears these days
like a torn nightgown. If she could
only make herself a tall shining lighthouse
to watch over the surf’s retreat and gain
and keep records faithfully with a pencil,
the enormous ball of light always turning
and she would be there caught happily
in the middle of such grand continuity.
Yet she must do it, get up to listen
and eagerly she moves into the next
room. Close to the beach, her face moonlight
pale, waiting for the white foam to arch up,
but all she hears is the steady hum of cars.


Perhaps if I grow enough flowers I can
hide today. Plant delphinium and stock,
watch the purple and blue climb in a
walled garden where a few friends come
for afternoon tea. They glow in long white
dresses, sipping tea from bone china cups,
listening to the birds in the oak trees.
I want to join them but I am one hundred
and ten years too late. Yet grandmother’s
chest is here on the back veranda. All
her clothes froth out. An invitation. If
I shut the lid I will be reduced to jeans.

I rise early before most have left
for work and walk in fields of flowers,
choosing cosmos for the dining room.
Arranging colours and ferns until
I have a painting on my table. All my
guests have their invitations.
The date clearly marked although
the year is uncertain. Will they
get lost with Cornwall on their left
and Denmark on their right? I shift
the paperweight on my desk,
delphinium under glass, and wait.


I once lived at The Priory on a hill.
Below, the Wye looped leisurely around
the valley floor. High above Trellech
Forest loomed, shadowed with Douglas firs
and rows of sycamore, ash and pine fading
into twilight. Now the surf flows
near my front door. There is a wattle
tree in my backyard and at dusk
the kookaburras call back and forth,
delineating their territory. I am
so far south migrant birds fly north
for the winter. The seasons juxtaposed.
Contemplation sun swept, exposed
but unexplained why I still walk
through forests — my mind fir clad night,
my body beached day. Do I need to
reconcile the two, mend opposites?
In the forest I learn there is no need
to try and split the year and send the
continents adrift. Through me two
hemispheres are joined. Memory swift
and clear merges with reality.

Debbie Robson is the author of Tomaree, an historical novel set in Port Stephens, and Crossing Paths: the BookCrossing novel inspired by She recorded a talk broadcast on Christmas Day 2019 by Radio Adelaide 101.5 about the Scottish women’s hospitals of WWI.

Debbie began writing poetry in the 1990s. She has performed her poems on radio, at Sydney poetry events, in the Blue Mountains, and more recently as part of the Women of Words project in Newcastle, New South Wales. After a long break, she has returned to writing short stories, a novella, and poetry.

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