MIDWEEK POETRY: La Perouse Dreaming, part 3. Guruwin, (the Grey Nurse Shark)

One of my weekend activities involved swimming at the pier that jutted out from Frenchman’s Beach and diving for money thrown by tourists.  Pocket money never appeared at home, so one collected coca cola bottles for refunds, (litter didn’t seem to be a problem then) and ran messages for neighbours. The only sure way to earn a few pennies was to dive for it. I became a regular feature, learned to swim and fitted in with the Aboriginal boys. They swam like otters and usually won the spoils, I managed to earn at most a shilling for the weekend. So you can imagine my delight when I was offered half a crown (equivalent to 25cents yet worth much more then) if I jumped off the pier. Sunday afternoons could be quiet and with the tide out very few of the other boys hung around. I had been doing what I did best, sitting on the pier daydreaming. I took little notice of the three young Teddy Boys leaning over the opposite railing laughing and joking with each other. Until the tallest of them came over holding out a shiny half a crown and asked if I was prepared to jump in after it…….. Why not?
The dreaming continues and my personal legends are born.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the picture of Guruwin, the Grey Nurse Shark.

Grey_Nurse_Shark_at_Fish_Rock_Cave,_NSW[1]

Late afternoon sunlight.
Angled beams
slash through the water,
unveiling dark weeds.
Jagged rocks
nestle beneath the surface.
Trembling with
fear,
excitement,
greed,
I grip hold of the
weather worn railing.
Troubled voices murmur behind me.
I ignore them.
My only thought,
the silver coin
tumbling through the air.
It splashes into the water,
I let go and follow it down.
Knees tucked to chest,
arms gripping shins.
I plummet.

Half a Crown.
So much money.
Screams and laughter fill the air above.
There should be a splash.
I land on Guruwin’s back,
and slide under the surface.
The shark
turns in alarm.
Water roiling, I lash out
skinny arms and legs no match
for thrashing tails.
Sinking.
I touch the submerged rocks.
Eyes wide,
blurred grey shapes
swarm above me.
Fear.
Shock.
No air.

Wooden piles grow from the seabed.
Strong, sturdy, my only way out.
They’re encrusted with
barnacles,
oyster shells,
all draped with green weed.
Driven,
I thrash towards one furthest
from Guruwin.
Fear lends wings.
Small boys shouldn’t
be food for sharks.

Sobbing.
Hugging the timber pile,
hands grasping the razor edges
of broken shells.
Skin slices open.
Blood trickles into the water.
A woman’s voice cuts through
the afternoon,
‘Get him out, get him out, sharks, save him.’
Hysterical laughter.
I rise with the next small wave,
grasp the pile with my legs and push.
Pain.
Oh Jesus where are you?

Silence.
He doesn’t listen to me.
What have I done?
Where are the guardian angels?
Inching painfully upwards, away
from Guruwin.
I only have faith in
my trembling limbs.
He’s probably more scared than I.
Do sharks get scared?
Small boys do.
Laurie Smith© 2013

Teddy Boys was a name given to a sub culture that existed in the 50’s and 60’s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_Boy They dressed different, aping Edwardian fashions. I found out that they had seen the sharks swimming under the pier, about four of them, and decided to have some sport with me.
Note, this is a brief look at the Aboriginal legend. Guruwin and Daringyal were brothers, envious of each other and always complaining. Their father banished them to unknown lands where they battled to the death. Guruwin threw his spear at his brother, striking him in the spine. He turned into a stingray and threw his boomerang at Guruwin, striking him between the shoulder blades. He fell into the sea also and turned into the Grey Nurse shark.
Believe me it was a long walk home that day.

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14 thoughts on “MIDWEEK POETRY: La Perouse Dreaming, part 3. Guruwin, (the Grey Nurse Shark)

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Oh Laurie, this was great. I really enjoyed this! It was so vivid, I can absolutely imagine it. What a scrape. Ah, boyhood 🙂

    What you said re litter wasn’t a problem back then – exactly. It’s all plastic now.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks so much Noeleen, hmm I was a little daredevil but that took the cake I think. 🙂 In South Australia they still have a deposit on all containers, plastic, cardboard and glass. It makes it worthwhile to pick litter up.

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  2. Pagadan

    I remember reading something about Teddy Boys a long time ago. They were in England too, weren’t they? You captured your feelings again perfectly. (I have such an urge to push those boys into the water.) Btw, you might enjoy the opening scene of my short story, Well Met By Water. I can email it to you…

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Yes they certainly were Joy, something of a phenomenon for a while. Thanks for the compliment. I read your short story, a dolphin indeed. It was intriguing though. 🙂

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  3. Owls and Orchids

    Great poem and story Laurie. Sounds like too close for comfort in more ways than one. All that blood from your hands and legs would have made things ‘very interesting ‘ to the sharks. Glad you managed to noble home. Shame the Teddy Boys didn’t become bait.
    Ciao. Susan 😊 ‘

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      1. Owls and Orchids

        What a spindly little fellow like you – he probably thought “now here’s a nice snack someone dropped in for me”. Very lucky I think. So glad you escaped to tell another tale 😉 Susan x

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      2. laurie27wsmith Post author

        I tended to be gangly for a while. I was extremely glad to have escaped. People have said you must be making this stuff up, well, not true. I tell them I was born dead and it went downhill from there. 🙂
        Laurie. x

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