by Ian C Smith
Picture an island ringed by rocks cloaked in orange lichens and beyond these, under the waves, wrecked hopes of mariners. A tall tanned man dressed like a swami in loincloth and headdress lived with his Japanese partner during parts of summers in a yurt on untamed land he had bought on this small island where his father was once the G.P.
Sometimes he paddled a kayak around the rocky coastline to the town for supplies, and at others, strode around a bay scoured by the Roaring Forties, carrying a six-foot staff like a character in a striking movie, to the small settlement where I stayed, where he sought assistance from people he knew with rusting 4WDs.
Few walking that beach I love, we eventually met, and I invited him to my shack for coffee. He wore a mudpack on his brow for the fierce sun, bangles fashioned from gumnuts, and a backpack with Walkman and mobile phone. Courteous, well-spoken, his intelligence impressed me, knowledge of music apparent. An environmentalist, he busked with great success in Japan, I had heard, but he didn’t mention this.
After missing him for some years, both on the island at different times, I Googled, expectation low. People referred to him by different names: his Anglo-Saxon birth name, and a couple of others that sounded Indian. Not having read these, I guessed their spelling. Island rumours rife, I heard he once worked on Hollywood movies. This turned out to be factual. He had even won an award for sound-editing a box-office hit.
His yurt trashed now, he has vowed never to return to the coloured coast of his boyhood. I heard his daughter from an earlier relationship, who had toddled through sun-kissed days, the scent of petrichor, around the yurt, graduated from Sydney University, and am unsure if he is still with his partner who was attacked in the town library leading to his self-imposed exile.
In a cauldron of greed, cashed-up newcomers and prejudiced blowhards are now islanded in what seems a microcosm of our wider world, leaving me ill in spirit, remembering this slippage of loved things, his headdress bobbing above breakers and wrack, boldly trekking that wind-blasted bay beneath circling sea-eagles with his staff like a wise man from another world in my wishful retrospective haze that seems like a beloved old movie.
Ian C Smith’s work has been published in Amsterdam Quarterly, Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds, cordite, The Dalhousie Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two-Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.