The stranded angler, Lake Illawarra (revised)

The long flat gone to white
         ring of hills process through grey, blue, black
         wide enough for one small life.


Out from the kiosk, the boat ramp
         fat families in tinnies down to the gunwales
         sputting props chew oyster trash.

Here I stand, Crusoe of the sand-bar 
         lord of pelicans, gulls and terns
         weed in the channel breathes the inflow.

Flick cast across
         the ticking reel, the line divines
         passages, shoals, banks of sand.

Tidal through the narrows
        Oh come all you fishies
        black fish, flat head, bull shark.

Day’s done (so soon) dark turns on
         streetlights bend and flex, columns
         converge in one bright line.

I can hear them (so close) — 
         dog walkers, family strollers
         first lovers chasing that deeper dark.

A step on the tide and I’d walk right out
         empty the lake I’ll be whistling down
         mud flats, shopping carts, car parts.

but hapless I stand
         drowning by feet, by knees, waist, chest
         — tremble that certain embrace.

A phone in my hand
         a low glow in the infra-red 
         across the water comes the rollicking crew.


Image: Lake Illawarra looking south. A revision of an earlier poem, based on a true story of a stranded fisherman rescued from Lake Illawarra in 2018. It still tickles my poetic weirdness and most of the locals still remember this as a story worth telling.

Tonight I’m hosting Dverse, the poets’ pub and we’re going local with poets writing on local news or events in their local area. Drop on over for a read of some great poets from around the world.

And for your listening pleasure here’s Bob Fox with an old fishing song (c. 1826) When The Boat Comes In” (or “Dance Ti Thy Daddy”) – (no not the BBC period drama of the late 70s).

32 thoughts on “The stranded angler, Lake Illawarra (revised)

  1. I love how you stepped into the shoes of the angler… and his hopes for a catch and the result of “mud flats, shopping carts, car parts.”… it sounds like a strange place to be a Crusoe… but at least the phone was there to save the day.

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  2. I love the layout and shape of this poem, Peter, and your story of Crusoe of the sand-bar. We have had our share of accidents and drownings on the Norfolk Broads as well as off the North Sea coast, but this is so exotic – you’ve referred to the pelicans again! I love the opening lines, the way they set the scene, and the colours, as well as these lines, which appeal to sense of sound and sight:
    ‘Flick cast across
    the ticking reel, the line divines
    passages, shoals, banks of sand.’
    What a perspective! And then night arrives so quickly and the poor guy is stranded with his phone in his hand, waiting to be rescued.

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    1. Thanks Cathy – Kafka once said “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” (and it’s true 🙂

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  3. My goodness …. this is exquisitely drawn! 💝 So much to love here especially; “Here I stand, Crusoe of the sand-bar/lord of pelicans, gulls and terns/weed in the channel breathes the inflow.” Thank you so much for the wonderful prompt 😀

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  4. Thankfully it only went chest high for him and he made sure his phone stayed dry. Come all the fishies including the sharks. Yipes! I like the tune you included, with its round chorus.

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  5. a rollicking fishing tale well told!

    Sadly I vividly recall a miraculous rescue on the shoalhaven where the drunk idiots who lost their oars were interviewed with no mention of the 23 people who formed a human chain during massive Easter storms to save them washing out to sea where lifeguards would have collected their remains … people who were heroes who risked their life! The idiots were so drunk they can’t recall how they were rescued, so they went down the club to have a few to celebrate 😦

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  6. A marvelously strange story! No doubt the angler would prefer not to speak of it! Apparently he was still head-above-water, perhaps he could’ve just stood until the tide went back out! Thanks for sharing. A joy to read.

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    1. Yes – he was 200m off shore – not too deep either – he could have swum; he could have paid attention – but now he is immortalised with his bright red face in local legend (and here in my poem). 😀

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  7. A very invigorating poem, a sea tale, a fisherman’s folly; excellent word-smithing and a fine illustration for your interesting prompt. I went first person with my poem.

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  8. I so enjoyed the local story and layout of your words Peter. I can see that hapless angler, slowly drowning while looking around & waiting for the crew Love that part of Crusoe of the sand-bar . Thanks for hosting Peter.

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  9. Peter, my brother from another… hemisphere. Fascinating tale and I loved you way you captured it in poem. Visiting your site is like a little adventure, I learn words snd phrases local to your region, which I enjoy. Also, loved the folk ballad you linked to here. Made me want a little fishy on a little dishy — make mine halibut! 🙂 …the film at the end of “When the Boat Comes In” had a flag in it I didn’t recognize: union jack in the corner and red body. It’s not an Aussie flag, least not one I am familiar with? Anyway, I enjoy your poems and posts. Did my witness poem directed at the this summer’s massive forest fires here in the Pacific Northwest – actually WA, OR, CA. Here in Seattle we chocked on the smoke so badly it drove me indoors for over a month. Covid & smoke — sounds like a rock band… peace to you!

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    1. Hey Rob, thanks for that – looking forward to reading your piece in a little while. Nice pick-up on the flag (which I hadn’t spotted). It’s the red ensign – for the use of British merchant navy ships and private craft. The song is from Liverpool (the “Geordie Shore”) – home to fishing fleet, docks and major ship-building industry. Peter

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      1. Calls to mind Gordon Sumner (Sting), who grew up in a ship building port in NE England. He did an entire musical entitled “The Last Ship”. Set against the demise of the shipyards in his hometown of Wallsend in North East England, I saw the entire production on video — fascinating. He said when they were in the last stage of building the ship it would tower above his home. Anyway, here is the title song, is you’re curious: https://youtu.be/6X_2jhIs7LM

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  10. You set the scene beautifully from the pov of the angler, the rather scornful description of the fat families, the water, the sky, the fish, all for him, yet the fat families manage to get it together to get out of the way of the rising tide, not to Sir Angler!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think in reality this is the way we all are…
    Here I stand, Crusoe of the sand-bar
    lord of pelicans, gulls and terns
    weed in the channel breathes the inflow.

    I liked your cute song about the fishy on the dishy!
    Dwight

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love the picture and your words in the beginning. I took another look after I read the first lines and they brilliantly describe those far off hills.
    That could have been my step-dad stranded in the water. He loved fishing.

    Liked by 1 person

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