Sculpture by the Sea is an annual event on Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia.  For 2016 Lithuanian sculptor Zelvinas Kempinas entered his work, Kakashi (the Japanese word for Scarecrow).  He was joint recipient (with Suzie Bleach and Andrew Townsend for the sculpture, A Burden) of the EY People’s Choice Award.

Two hundred snow poles
red and yellow.
Curving parallel lines
in deep drilled holes
secured by concrete.
Precise position
sides matching
poles vertical.
Strips of bird repellent tape
tautly stretched
between poles
thirteen feet high.
Red yellow canopy
billows shimmers
infinity from
sun and wind.
Wind on skin
shishing  tapes
pushing waves
as they sink SSSHHEW
into sea’s edge.
Feet sink into sand.
Corellas call from
Norfolk pines
on grassed terraces.
Sun is hot, bright
and infinite.

©  Sandra Roe

John and George

This poem is not about two dead Beatles.  It concerns two explorers: Sir George Grey (1812-1898) and John Septimus Roe (1797-1878), my great great grandfather.  George went on to become Governor of South Australia, Governor of New Zealand twice, Governor of Cape Colony (South Africa), and Premier of New Zealand.  John was Western Australia’s first Surveyor General for 42 years, and was a noted explorer of regions of Western Australia.  This poem is based on the journals of Grey and Roe.

In 1837
George sailed a small vessel
from the Cape of Good Hope
to Hanover Bay
in Australia’s north west
to explore
and survey the coast.
His troubles began.
short of Hanover Bay
they landed at High Bluff Point.
George and his men
decided to walk.
But it was December
and it was hot
and they took only
two pints of water.
Their three dogs dropped dead.
George swam across the inlet
to signal the schooner
and they fired distress signals
from their guns.
The boat rescued them
and headed for Timor.
It returned with 26
half broken ponies
sheep and goats.
The rainy season set in
stock were dying.
Slowed down in
steep ravines and gullies
with half wild ponies
natives attacked and
George was badly wounded.
He found a river and
named it after Lord Glenelg,
his sponsor.
They followed it until
flooding forced them to
retrace their steps.
George sailed to Mauritius.

In 1839
George tried again
to explore the north west coast
in an American whaler
and three whale boats
with four former companions
a young volunteer Frederick Smith
five men
and one native.
They landed on Bernier Island
at the northern end of Shark Bay.
They left supplies in a depot
and their troubles began.
The whaler sailed away
with their supply of tobacco.
There was no water on the island
and one boat was smashed
as they tried to leave
stores were lost.
Forced to land on Dorre Island
by a violent storm
two of the boats were wrecked.
After repairs
they made it to the mainland
and found some fresh water.
George named the Gascoyne River
and they went further north.
Both boats were swamped
and provisions damaged.
Sick, hungry and weary
they waited a week
for the wind to drop.
They returned to Bernier Island
but a hurricane had swept in
and scattered their stores.
They had half a barrel of flour
buried in seaweed and
a barrel of salt provisions.
George put out to sea again
surveyed the coast within Shark Bay
and the surrounding country
and reached Gantheaume Bay.
His boat was dashed upon rock
as they tried to land.
The other boat was damaged
both boats beyond repair.
George’s only option now
was to walk to Perth
300 miles
with 20 pounds of damaged flour
barely edible
and one pound each of salt pork.
They argued about how best to proceed.
Short walks with long rests or
long rests with short walks.
Several men insisted on carrying articles
cordage, canvas, duck.
Men who refused to abandon their loads
were first to become exhausted.
Concerned for everyone’s survival
George pressed ahead
with those few men
fit and willing
to reach Perth
and send a relief party.
About 25 miles from Perth
they met a party of natives
who supplied a good native meal
and nursed them
like children.

In May 1839
John left Perth
with policemen and
Aboriginal guides
and horses
to rescue the trailing men.
He found three men
Ruston, Stiles and Clatworthy
gazing hopelessly at
a rocky headland
without the strength
to climb over it.
As John described it,
one man on his knees
with hands uplifted
supplicating assistance
from that Power
by whose will alone
it had now
been sent to them.
They all declared their
firm conviction
they could not have
proceeded forward
another day and should
have given it up
as hopeless.
They had left Frederick Smith
the volunteer
a few days since
in a dying state
six or seven miles
to the north.
John and his men
lifted the three men onto the horses
and conveyed them
to a place
above the sand hills
made a fire
and revived them
with boiled sago
rice, water and brandy.
John went with
one of the men and
an Aboriginal guide Warrup
and Ruston
to find Frederick Smith.
Warrup saw the traces
of feet in the sand
they ascended a bare sand hill
turned short round to the left
and there lay Frederick
Florence Nightingale’s cousin
extended on his back
in the midst of a thick bush.
He seemed to have laid down to sleep
half enveloped in his blanket.
His canteen quite empty
haversack with his few requisites
and his felt hat that lay near him.
His spirit seemed to have fled
from the dreadfully emaciated body
between two and three days ago.
They buried his remains
in the sand
uttered a short prayer
and smoothing over his solitary bed
placed at the head of his grave
a piece of wood found on the beach.


Copyright    Sandra Roe



A Decision

They say a bushfire kills
with radiant heat
and smoke inhalation.
This one followed a
catastrophic fire warning.
Lightning sparked fires
at Grass Patch, Scaddan and Salmon Gums.
To save his chestnut horse Cougar
from the advancing flames
burning embers flying
at 140 kilometres an hour
Tom from Sheffield
loaded the animal in the float
and went through the farm gate
with two other farm workers
Anna from Norway and
Julia from Germany
and on to the Coolgardie Esperance Highway.
It was thought they had time
to escape.
But he turned left
rather than right
and drove into the raging flames.
The truck and horse float
were found later
tipped over and burnt out.
The farmhouse was saved
but lost a cat and geese
a shearing shed
vegetable garden and
bits of gear.
The horse paddock
was untouched by fire.


Copyright Sandra Roe

How to Build a Road

Get out your plan
and draw a line
from Kwinana Freeway
through the wetlands
to Stock Road.
You will build this road
come hell or low water and
whatever the future of the port will be.
After all
the PM loves roads
only roads
not rail
and Barnett knows best.

Hammer the houses
trash the bushland
boot out the bandicoots
scatter the birds
they don’t drive trucks
they don’t even vote.

Rip out the flora
shatter the silence
sink the pylons
scuttle Roe Swamp
it’s only a sumpland.
String up your bright lights
to show the way.
The frogs won’t really mind.

Don’t plan too far
no worries
about the problems ahead
those bottlenecks
past High Street
something will come up
she’ll be right.
After all
the PM loves roads
only roads
not rail
and Barnett knows best.

The shag net

Hundreds of birds
fly fast and low
skimming over the water
wings waving like
flapping flags flying.
Suddenly the front line
slows and slips
into the water
diving question marks
as they curve and plunge
one row after another
the water swirls
and they surface again
one row after another.
The pelicans follow
dipping and scooping
with their pouchy beaks
deep down
as they lift their wings
clear of the water
to keep them dry.
The shags stand on the rocks
or the river wall
wings outstretched to dry.
The pelicans rest beside the river
rows of oval shapes
pouchy beaks tucked in
under large white wings.

Copyright Sandra Roe

The view of Forrestdale Lake from the boardwalk

The path came through fringing paperbarks
over squelchy ground
too boggy and wet to walk on.
A band of rushes
light straw colour
an exotic weed
infests the circle edge.
A strand of blue water
reflects the sky.
Distance hazes the view.
On what appears to be a sand bar
in the centre
stands a line of black swans
around forty or fifty of them
familiar shapes
beloved black density
shimmering in early spring light
some standing still
others flashing white under wings.
Another blue line
behind the sandy shallows
leads to the band of trees
on the other side
and the wide blue sky.

Black Swans

early morning
I see them
bold black on sunfrost grass
long necks stretch
swing around
gentle construction cranes
gather sticks grass
plastic bits
nest and
eggs laid
take turns feeding brooding
beak opens for cooling
wings umbrella raised
shielding hatching
cygnets floating
between proud parents
feeding learning
growing quickly
running along feeling wings
lift off into lake
soar over river

Copyright Sandra Roe