• Penelope Layland


Conjugal headstones


Doubly wretched

a shared grave unshared:

stone sculpt in expectation

double-depth dug.

A splayed page engraved

one side forever undated -

a century’s lichen can’t obscure:

this bed’s half-empty, un-mated.

It speaks unwonted happy endings,

remarriage, remove, release

for she who held a ripening hand,

looked into a cooling eye

swore she’d go to the lip of dark

and join him by and by.




The Ly-ee-Moon Cemetery, Green Cape, NSW


The clearing is hemmed solid with twisting banksia

and a coming tempest’s thickened air.


They hauled the bodies here

brined and laundered

to be always within hearing

of the thing that killed them:

the concussion of water and rock.


Green Cape Light sweeps a clockwork eye

but quick, quick, quick.

It is not a searchlight,

cannot fix upon a point,

upon one figure torn away

one trapped by the shoulders in smothering foam,

another snatched from rescue’s arms

and given up to rock.

The timbers sounded all night.


Some are named here, others not.

For each, one simple whitewashed rock:

the cook’s friend;

a woman, unaccompanied;

the man with the German accent.

Their psalm is the seasonal cicada,

the susurration of small birds,

the booming bell of water-beaten rock.


Over the century, sand has shifted.

Finger bones have reached for finger bones,

pelvises tilted, craniums touched.