Sestina after a Royal Commission


‘Goodbye,’ said the witness to the remains

of the structure floating out with the tide.

Before her, she held the flotsam of a window

scavenged from the wreck of a life-saving club.

‘Look,’ said the window, ‘Dogs’ tails

stiff with sand are measuring the distance


from the crime.’ ‘You think there’s a distance?’

asked the shore. ‘This torpor must not remain,’

said reports of the wreck, ‘We’ve collected tales

of the days they tossed evidence to the tide

and drank to children’s silence in their club.

Have you looked in through their window?’


She answered, ‘This wreckage is their window,’

as she held up the panes, to peer into a distance

that meant nothing was the same in a club

she couldn’t join. She tipped the remains

of her trust right onto the sand. High tide

sent an inrush, over the buried tale


of her faith. The shore said, ‘Those sandy tails

weren’t meant as metaphors for criminals, but a window

to the joy that might have been. The tides

invite dogs to bounce into the brine, at a distance

from human trouble.’ The witness remained.

The window said, ‘You need to find a club


that is your own. See the dogs’ club.

See how they fall together. See how their tails

tell a story of the moment.’ ‘What remains,’

said the witness, ‘is this scavenged window

on the human record that is broken at a distance

from the act. I see it in the call of the tide.’


‘Witness, there is no answer,’ said high tide

to the woman who had given up on the club

and its life-saving claims. At a distance –

though she could not keep a distance – the tales

repeated. She had to hear them. The window

said, ‘This is the only trust that remains:


to hear the distance is no distance, from the tide

of the crimes that need redress.’ ‘What new club

will answer to these tales?’ she asked the window.

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