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Coastal Watch, the Aussie Yawned

by Holly Pettit

Bougainville, overlooking The Slot (New Georgia Sound), South Pacific: 1941

Watcher Thinselwaith awoke knowing he’d lost Home.
So many turns of the sun that he alone witnessed as sunrise

Over this one sinking atoll, the Pacific sheered
Off to curved horizon at every compass point. He could count

With eyes closed each standing palm and the fallen ones
Pulled to sea a little more with every tide. He

Had named the blue and green currents, could tell the date and time
By migrations of minnows, the level of surf, plankton, froth, but no

Longer dreamed of the Queensland farm he’d been raised for,
Red dust blustering up the wind, bush fires

At Christmas. Map and telegraph were under his plow hand now,
Sunspots and thunderstorms filling his nightmares, clouding out

His dot-dash-dot to Brisbane, awaiting invasion,
Forcing him to stand and watch gray destroyers run The Slot.


Holly Pettit’s first book-length collection is For One Who Lives on the Mainland. A former army linguist, she studied contemplative traditions at Harvard Divinity School, served as 2003 Visiting Writer to Romania, and attended The Creative Center of New York’s Program for Art in Hospitals. She is a moderator at the Zeugma Poetry Workshop. Author of a biography and six books of fiction, most recently Disappearing Ingenue and Late Bloomer (both Doubleday/Anchor). (10/2009)

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