Today the air tastes sour and smells like burning rubber. We are on the fifth straight day of pre-emergencia, where the government tries to keep cars off the road to give the city a chance to breathe. There's a rumor of mountains out on the horizon, but I'm taking it on faith because I'm straining to see the buildings four blocks over. It's winter in Santiago. On days like this, all I want is to curl up in bed with a good book that will take me somewhere else.
Summer is my favorite. Summer with a beach.
This post is about a very good book: Surf Sounds - a new volume of poetry by the Australian Poet Roger Higgins.
Roger knows beaches. Australia is coastal country and summers are mostly spent by the ocean, squinting into the sun on the water and learning how to walk. You don't walk fast, or slow. It's a proceeding sort of pace - one you can keep up for hours, or the end of the beach, and in Queensland, where Roger was born, you will generally run out of day before you run out of sand. He has learned how to walk and he has mastered when to stop - for a good shell, or a jellyfish, a crab or a cloud, a sunset, or a place where the tide is running out and braided channels form to carry the beach with it out to sea. Channels need to be dammed and new ones dug out with your foot. You have to stay and watch the patterns change, the way the different sands settle out, dark over white, grain by grain, making little sandbars, marking little currents -
It is good to have another person walking with you, to teach about tides and little rivers. Alone, though, is better. Alone, you don't have to talk to anyone. You walk, and watch and you stop, and you think. Your stories are all your own.
Roger's first poem, Travels through Time and Place, was written in a Moscow hotel room - which admittedly is not a beach, but he has walked a lot of beaches since, traveling from one place to another place. Along the way he has done a lot of writing - on restaurant napkins and torn of sections of paper tablecloths, the back of airline boarding cards - even credit card slips, when he has needed to.
It's amazing what you can find in your pockets, in a pinch.
Roger writes about the places where he lives: Canada, Australia, and Chile, from the Atacama Desert in the north all the way through the Isla de Pascua down to Patagonia and Lago Grey. He writes about the places he passes through: Kazakhstan, the Cook Islands, the Congo, Mexico -
A walking beach, Roger reckons, is a state of mind - you find it in long roads, long nights, long showers and the long flat roofs of sheds.
"I write," he says "about the places that I love or have hurt me. Places where words lead into emotions and points of view I'd never anticipated that they'd hold."
Kitchens, late night bars, horse paddocks, bare desert mountains, long roads, long nights, long showers and the long flat roofs of sheds.
Little rivers that shift and reform beneath the weight of a toe -
The drag of waves of your feet as you stand ankle deep in a rising tide-
Waves that wipe the pattern clear and write it fresh -
Surf Sounds: Poems by Roger Higgins
Roger Higgins' poetry is both day by day and exotic. The poet washes his socks and jocks when he showers. He prefers description, narrative and irony to self-dramatization; there’s a lot more to Surf Sounds than ocean, beach and desert.
~ Graham Rowlands, Poet
Surf Sounds can be purchased through Liquid light Press , amazon, and Lulu.