Climbing the leaf-hung stairway from the beach,
You step past antique cannon onto a lawn
With benches and a scattering of wrens.
Your eyes are drawn
Across, around the harbour, scanning each
Headland and cove that bends
The haze-bedazzled shoreline, till they reach,

Way off, those glassy towers, the office blocks,
An apparition out of science fiction,
As though the city that you travelled through
Were a prediction,
Not here and now, a temporal paradox
Put up to baffle you.
Then you proceed, up steps cut in the rocks,

Skirting the pilot’s cottage, to South Head,
The empty gun emplacements, the lighthouse,
The cliff face dropping sheer into the sea,
With its plosive dowse
Of surge and foam, the wind’s unlimited
Onrush of nullity,
Against which you are braced to stand and tread.

If you should lean and reach out into it,
Would that arm too be made of emptiness?
On the way back you come to that bank of lawn
The wrens possess.
This time you watch them as they skitter and flit,
Minutely feeding on
Skerricks around the bench on which you sit.

So used to people are they that they treat
Their passing forms as though they were not there,
The tiny flying insects you can’t see
Their only care,
As they flutter and pounce around your stationed feet
So unconcernedly.
Indeed, what is the limit of their petite

And searching eyes? The harbour you survey,
Those distant towers that the sun ignites,
The coloured yachts, may be the merest blur
Beyond their sight’s
Brief focus, which dissolves into the day,
Like the stretched arm you were
Imagining the wind might make away.

Photograph: Juergen Wallstabe, South Head with Sydney skyline in background.