Vince Ruston

Bicheno Mussels

Vince Ruston

Bare feet grip the salt
rocks with our toes.
We know how to climb
across, sprite-swift in our clothes.

I’m older, faster. Your
asthmatic lungs rebel, hold
out air. Your little toe,
slick, slips on mussel shells,
black caviar spores spreading
up the beach. A sacrificial
offering. The shells
lap you up like hellish
black tongues.

A little cry is all it takes,
sets Dad running over
rock pools to gather you
up, Little-Mermaid-style in his arms,
black tongues receding under
the crunch of heavy boots.

A line of red seeps the
sole of your foot, pools
at the cusp of your heel.
Drips to season the sand.

Later, you all bandaged up and whole.
We eat crayfish, freshly caught.
You crack the legs, gnaw
white flesh. Throw it up
an hour later.

Next day, Portuguese man-of-war
wash across the beach, same
colour as Windex. Tentacles stretch
ten feet along the tide.

‘Don’t swim here,’ Dad says, one
hand on each of our heads.
Mum reads crime novels as we
fish from the coastline.
Catch flathead for dinner,
slit bellies and pull bones
next to the barbeque.
Scales cling to my
fingers, shimmer by
citronella candles.

We don’t get all the
bones though. They
stick in our
teeth as we eat.

We don’t come here again.

Vince Ruston (24) edits poetry for Voiceworks and dabbles in writing across all forms. They also dabble in gardening, sewing, feminist philosophy and witchcraft. They live with their fiancée and two cats named Persephone and Vivienne. They have just completed their Honours in Creative Writing through RMIT University.