Peter Ramm

Peter Ramm is a poet and teacher who writes on the Gundungurra lands of the NSW Southern Highlands. His debut poetry collection Waterlines is out now with Vagabond Press. In 2022 he won the prestigious Manchester Poetry Prize. His poems have also won the Harri Jones Memorial Award, The South Coast Writers Centre Poetry Award, The Red Room Poetry Object, and have been shortlisted in the Bridport, ACU, Blake, and the Newcastle Poetry Prizes. His work has appeared in Westerly, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, The Rialto, Eureka Street, and more.


The Sedulity of Soldier Crabs

Red, red is the sun,
Heartlessly indifferent to time,
The wind knows, however,
The promise of early chill.
—Matsuo Bashō

It’s Boxing Day and the sun climbs a lattice work of cirrus clouds, dripping like treacle in the early afternoon. The sandflats are rinsed with the voices of a hundred children and the air teems with the smell of last week’s storm washing through the estuary after its journey down the Woodstock and Stoney Creeks. The inlet runs emerald green and blue in the deep places and three channel markers meander their way towards the point like a set of mis-thrown darts. 

        Whiting like razors
In the water; each one cuts
A new memory.


This is Yuin country, and it remembers a time before its wealth was burnt in the lime pit at Dolphin Point and hauled by the Burrill Lake Timber company to Sydney; its cedar, iron bark and mahogany forests floated out to sea. A plaque on the Princess Highway recounts how the rock shelter on the lake’s edge makes children of the pyramids and the language the king used to claim the geology of the place—the basalt and siltstone forty million years in the making.

        Fourteen cormorants
Take wing; time written cursive
In pages of sea grass.


Now, my son’s fingers are little clumps of sand in mine and we run ankle deep across the bar—legs lurching like the loose brush strokes of an infant artist. The pools and pockets of water gleam like the scaled side of a great bream for hundreds of yards before us. He says I’m a sea monster; a shark, an octopus, a crab or whatever he wants me to play. All he knows is the next footfall, and more often, the fall of laughter and salt and the cast net of his father’s arms. 

        Onshore, paddle boards
Consume the car park, staking
Out their own claim.


I grasp at his arm before he lands on the blue back of a lone soldier crab—an ancient of days, his bone-striped legs the first to walk this water. Sitting. Still. Sifting the sand against the budding toes of my boy. There’s music in the dactyls of his claws, in the iambs of his movement, in the breath of my toddler. Together, they share the notes of time, a semibreve on the boy’s lips—a pause, a new sonata strung in his mind. But he wants to squish it

        —Feel the crush of bone
And shell in the webs of feet.
There’s so much to learn.


The wind winds us up, it blows purple on our skin and black on the faces of a pair of pied oystercatchers, who pry the sand for the living, weighing the hour like Anubis, with beak and feather. Still, the crab remains. Long after we’ve passed. Out there—a relic of the tides, the small cadences of the cosmos marked in the milky way of its shell. We finish by skimming on the board, the boy riding it like a comet over the water, and I, collapsing Phaethon, at the reins. 

        Coolness in the shade
Of the wind. Always, the end
Begs quiet and time.