Flash Frontier

July 2023: MOANA | OCEAN

All Issues

Lesley Evans, Ocean 1
Lesley Evans, Ocean 1

About Lesley Evans

Seascape Triptych

Sara Crane


There is a painting in the waiting room. Of the sea. It’s split in three. Unnecessarily. I see the blue water, the blue sky. I wish.

I can hear the dentist’s drill. The receptionist’s talking so softly I can tell it’s not a work call.

My tooth throbs hotly. I just want it out. Over.

I found a tooth on the beach once. It was too big to be human. Too small to be interesting. I dropped it in a rock pool. Maybe it’s still there.

My granddad had all false teeth. He kept them in a glass of salt water beside the bathroom basin. He only ever put them in to go to church or when there were visitors. He refilled the glass when the tide came in high up on the slipway.

In the painting, there’s a pale bit. Like a hidden sand bar. 

Once, I went to a sandbar party. Live music came and went. Barbecues fizzled and shared crispy meat and oddments of unidentifiable deliciousness. It wasn’t safe to swim amongst flippant speedboats. I went home early and slept in the car.

There’s no sand now.

Only deep, deep water.

About Sara Crane


Sally Marx


At the end, it was the brilliant ocean.

We carried her across sand dunes, arms like seaweed draped around our shoulders, stumbling to the rumpled edge where the sea, watching us coming, sucked its breath in and sighed, a long shhhing sound. Her body was twig thin, feet bone-white amongst upturned cockle shells as we held her upright in the baby waves. She leaned against us but really it was the ocean holding her there.

For days, her eyes had been closed in a morphine cave, now they stared across the sea so intently I followed her gaze, wondering. 

We watched a wave gathering, peeling towards us, translucent pounamu, unstoppable in its final swirl and sparkle around our ankles. Like a ragged hem unravelling it pulled away again leaving tiny bits from the ocean floor at our feet.

Seagulls wheeled in noisy arcs around us diving for tiny silver fish. Living their best lives on a day full of promise.

For a second, there were no boundaries. We were the ocean, the sky, the crying gulls and the slapping wind.

We had done everything we could think of, but in the end, it was the aroha around us that day that calmed and settled us, especially my sister. None of us were religious, but I remember how those salty waves washing our legs felt like a blessing. And how we gazed across the ocean, lining ourselves up for whatever would come next.

About Sally Marx

Red Jandal

Viv Bailey


Naked feet meet squishiness. My stomach rolls. What is it? Peering through briny film I see tendrils of shiny black kelp, stretching, bending in watery currents, bouncing baubles of rimurimu. An ocean’s catch.
Then a glimpse of red. Foreign, jarring. A jandal. Flipping. Flopping. Escaping the floating arms of harakeke, shaggy clumps fleeing the river mouth. For this is a place of mingling, of fresh water joining the saltiness of the ocean.
I bend, retrieve the rubbery intruder. It is child-sized. Scalloped indentations reflect gouging of small toes. I look around, the wind blasting at my woollen beanie. Is there a twin?
Eddie nudges me forward, spaniel eyes impatient. I tuck the jandal beside a rock, away from the ocean’s ebbing arms. The dog holds a piece of driftwood in his soft mouth. Please. Flinging it far, wide. Excitement. A flash of disappearing feathered tail. Chasing.

Forgetting the red jandal.

About Viv Bailey

Claire Beynon, Crossing the Divide, oil on canvas
Claire Beynon, Crossing the Divide, oil on canvas

About Claire Beynon

Lake people, sea people

Vera Dong


She asks, what’s the difference between sailing on a lake and in an ocean? He says, one is a playground, another a battleground. She reads Dreams of Red Mansion for the third time; he polishes his motorbike, dreaming of riding to the ends of the earth. She gets infuriated over the Opium Wars; he explains ‘open for global trade’ is the only way to go. She holds a brush, practises calligraphy; he makes model airplanes with stainless-steel tools. She underlines while reading and keeps a collection of quotes; he makes ‘salads’ or ‘smoothies’ with ingredients from all his readings. She makes a fuss over First Full-Moon Day, Eighth Full-Moon Day, Dragon Boat Race Day and Climbing High Day; he tries to go home on Christmas Day. She buys blank greeting cards, writes long messages; he buys pre-inscribed cards, signs his name and dates it. Occasionally he adds heart symbols. She thinks catching a cold is the evil root of all illnesses; he takes a cold shower and wears shorts in winter. She boils ginger, brown sugar tea on cold days; he makes a cup of Milo. She cooks rice porridge and eats salty duck eggs, a remedy for stomach ache; he takes a Zantac. She says, like a tree, she will return to her hometown when she gets on a bit; he thinks that is another romanticized Chinese concept.   
He holds daily chats with his hens and calls each ‘Sweetie’; she asks for the oldest one to boil for soup.  

About Vera Dong


Jackie Ritchie


The ocean will come for you soon. Glassy tides rising through mowed grass, mirror of the world floating higher and higher, as if to say, remember the reflection?

Water will pour into your tiny gumboots, young feet cold and resentful. When you have to wade to school, when the ocean comes up to your nose, will you spit it out or drink it down? The ocean can give and give and give to you, water so salty and fizzy with carbon to bubble your gut. But he can take and take too.

Your parents will glide through underwater scenes, not noticing their slowness, the way hair floats clouded around them. You will never understand the bubbles that come from their mouths. They are alien. You are destined for a different planet, after all.

Boats and rafts will be built soon. Not for you. You will stay, pushed down by huge mass, a new kind of creature. Salt and fizz and anger.

And when you’re all grown up, an ocean native of the superheated era, your gills will become clogged with microplastics, and you’ll choke in the only atmosphere you’ve ever known.

About Jackie Ritchie

Rhythm at New Brighton Beach

Desna Wallace

The moon watches the woman and every slow movement she makes. She is a mere silhouette on the shore. Waves gush and froth, surging forward again and again and again. The ocean listens to her tortured whispers, and waits. There is a shell in her hand, off-white on the outside but pink, purple and aqua inside. It’s beautiful, she whispers to the wind. In the half-light, to the rhythm and whoosh of the tide, she knows that the small beauty growing inside her no longer has a rhythm of its own. It has ceased to be. Moana is still watching and listening. The woman brushes the sand from the shell, warm in her hands, smooths it, before returning it to the sea with a gentle, under-arm throw. Moana tastes the woman’s salty tears, feels her pain, and rushes to bury the shell far beneath the waves. The moon watches the woman walk away and, sharing in her grief, hides itself behind the darkness.

About Desna Wallace

Manu Berry, Wheke
Manu Berry, Wheke

About Manu Berry

The Window

Ruby Appleby

She made sure he wasn’t watching each time she turned to gaze out the window. If he saw her like that – eyes wide, mouth ajar, features imbued with reverence – his expression would darken, until it reminded her of the choppy, chaotic sea outside. His eyebrows would draw together like curtains, and he’d suck in a heavy breath like the sound of saltwater dragging itself across sand. 

“What are you staring out there for?” he’d ask, propping himself up by the elbows on the kitchen bench. “Isn’t it nicer in here? Not so cold, God knows, and not so windy.” He’d pretend to shiver, hugging his shoulders. “I’d hate to be out on the beach on a winter’s day like this.”

He’d stare at her, expectant. She would have drawn her eyes away from the window by then, but this never mattered to him. “Eh? I’m listening.”

He’d wait, statue-still, but whatever she told him would never suffice – his response was always pre-loaded, always the same. “We have a perfectly good house here,” he’d say, gesturing to the driftwood coffee table (hers) and the seashells on the windowsills (also hers). “What do you want to be outside for?” She knew what he meant: aren’t I enough for you? Isn’t this enough for you?

She never knew how to reply; a meek nod would wash the conversation away, and then he’d start on a new topic. A screwdriver that’d somehow disappeared from his toolbox, maybe, or a crack in the roof of the doghouse.

About Ruby Appleby

Time to freshen up before you go

Janean Cherkun

You shopped, ladder-climbed. A small plastic bucket, sacrificed and DIY-strung, dangled down your chest. Same way a golden crucifix fashioned from a loved one’s tooth, upgraded, fell down deep inside a chair once, and we ripped the chair up.
Apply. See how you progress, perfecting gravestone letters in your mind. Cyrillic symbols look like waves unless punched out in capitals. We disapprove of maintenance done badly, by the lady who once lived here or her cowboy friend. Rust is found in spots across the guttering.
You repair and prime aluminium correctly, the way it should be: etched then glossed. Family waits for both your passports. Paint the sills sea green and under eaves a shiny water grey. Your bifurcated mindset meets the scrapes and drifts of stuck-not-stuck old paint. Must waterproof tile edges with oil sludge. Throw a coin into the water to ensure you travel back with tar-grime hands. Wash in Auckland, Sydney, Incheon.
Bet you forgot to toss a monetary balm into the harbour of your homeland, or failing that, to hold out currency beneath the random pouring from a pipe sticking out of cobbled, cliffside rockery. You likely parked your father’s car nearby and washed it.
Paperwork is tough upon re-entry. Head and hands so full of disconnect, you cannot spell your middle name which has a fair few letters. As your wife tells everyone, for many years so far, your spelling has plateaued. Sometimes as flat and calm as an ocean no one flies across.

About Janean Cherkun

The Kuia, the Kōtiro and Te Moana

Alex Reece Abbott

“Pray to the sea god, dive in the water,” says Missy, the kōtiro. “Then Tangaroa’s healing love surrounds you, catches your hopes and dreams.”

Mrs Bell wipes her watering eyes, watches the glinting ocean. No ships. No waka. Whales, none. She durst not share or surrender her hopes and dreams, let alone risk them being caught. She licks her lips and tastes brine.

They are taking shade from the pōhutukawa, using the day’s bright light for the infinite mending of clothes. After the king tide, the brimming bay is calm, a turquoise half-moon, ringed with black rocks. Mrs Bell takes up her needle again, not tempted to dive into the sea, not even for healing love.

“Taniwha hide in our caves.” Missy punctuates her words with stitches. “They prowl lakes and rivers. And te moana.”

Mrs Bell nods, sage kuia-like. Her husband has told this story, gathered while spreading the word of the Lord. “Dragons.”

“Not really. Taniwha keep us safe.” Missy grins. “Eats and kills people. Kidnaps women too.”

Mrs Bell grimaces.

Missy looks at Mrs Bell, reading her. “Feeling pōuri? Then taniwha sweeps away your tears.”

On the walk back to the mission, Mrs Bell takes up a well-worn piece of driftwood. Tangaroa. Slowly, she draws the letters on the wrack line. T-a-n-i-w-h-a. “So…like a serpent?”

The kōtiro sighs. “Like a…taniwha.”

Mrs Bell nods. That’s as believable as anything she has to offer.

The kuia and the kōtiro sidestep the incoming tide, and the fragile sand-scratched words dissolve.

About Alex Reece Abbott

Lesley Evans, Ocean 2
Lesley Evans, Ocean 2

About Lesley Evans

The one that got away

Deb Jowitt


We rowed out against the incoming tide and anchored in the lee of the far headland. The lapping of the waves was hypnotic – like the beating heart of the sea playing a tune on the hull of the tin dinghy.

My uncle told me a girl from the city needed to get bush-wise and sea-savvy. He’d show me how to shoot a rifle. Skin a possum. Bait a line. Gut a fish. Get my hands dirty.

He could have told me that a dawn sky over the water is luminous, soft pink shading into silver-grey, like looking into the future, or the past.

Instead, he said, let’s test the waters. He rowed to the middle of the bay and cast his hook and sinker into the depths, resting a finger under the taut line.

As the sun rose higher, we drowsed, talk lapsing into silent nods, eyes half-shut. Then the boat jolted, and my uncle squared his body hard against the plank seat and leaned back, arms tight against his chest, his rod bending with the strain.

The invisible wild thing on his hook was taking us to the open sea. My uncle held on, looking like a man possessed – stiff-bodied, face contorted, eyes bulging – as the beast dragged us seaward on the outgoing tide.

The blade of the bait knife shone silver in the midday sun. We breached the outer limits of the bay as I made my move. Cutting a snagged line was the first thing he’d taught me.

About Deb Jowitt


Marion Day


I’m confident it’s large enough. The inland bay in front of our property is about 335 ha in size, has a big mouth of around 1.7 km (ideal) and is a tidal estuary with sand flats, salt marsh, and sea grass beds (even horse mussels and scallops in the shallows).

Back when Bill and I walked away after viewing the Blenheim rest home for our placement, he’d grabbed my hand and said, “Bugger that. We’ll simply take the dinghy up the Pelorus, into the Cook Strait and leap.”

I agreed with a nod.

“You can go first,” he continued. I nodded again, but then he smiled. I dropped his hand and punched him in the arm.
I stand on the shore, like a Belladonna lily in full bloom. The water’s seductive tongue laps between my toes. I recalculate my calculations. At thirty metres, the water will be shoulder high. The mussel farm is too far away to give a lifeline, despite its twenty black-buoyed lines. I’m aware that at a water temperature of five degrees Celsius, my withered muscles and nerves will contract and I won’t be able to make any meaningful movements. I won’t be able to return to the shore, even if I change my mind.

The ocean inspires. Generates ideas. 

“You ole codger,” I giggle, punching the urn in my hand softly and smiling. “I’ll be with you in about ten minutes.”

About Marion Day

Beauty and the Beach

Jackie Russell


When the wind, waves and rain relented, the hungry tūturiwhatu returned to the beach for a kai. The first fauna fossicked for sand hoppers that were attracted to the new abundance of seaweed and sea grass.

The residents united for the big beach clean-up. With rakes, forks and gloved hands they scooped up the detritus of Tangaroa – the sand, the seaweed, the driftwood, the leaves and the sand hoppers. Sweat dripped from the elongated noses of wheelbarrow pushers, who did their bit.

Skip bins were full of life and ready to be taken to the landfill. The workers downed tools and shared a cuppa, home-baked muffins and their storm stories. There were many opinions about how to replace the wooden wall where the damage was the greatest, and the waves had gnawed at concrete and Kikuyu grass. Empty holiday houses might go in the next big blow.

The community admired their efforts and the perfect beach.

The tūturiwhatu were long gone, in search of a feed elsewhere.

About Jackie Russell

Claire Beynon, The Oceans are Hoarders of Holy Mysteries, oil on board
Claire Beynon, The Oceans are Hoarders of Holy Mysteries, oil on board

About Claire Beynon

Butter & Bone

Philippa Tucker


The fish’s eyes never bothered you, nor their thrashing. This was the way of the world, the world that you were still learning, the world in which children dangled their legs off the side of a fiberglass hull & waited for a tug on a nylon line beneath gently slapping waves. The tug itself always caused quite a splash. But Opa’s arms were swift & practiced. He twisted the fish to separate it from the barb of the hook & the sudden tide of crimson at its mouth was always a shock – a fish was not something you would think to bleed just like you. But then he threaded more bait on the hook & you would continue to sit there, legs still dancing offbeat to the bob of the boat, fingers finding stray scales on the deck. The castaway scales looked so different on their own, like little chips of clear, hard plastic. You tested them between thumb & forefinger, trying to bend them, to see if they’d yield. At night your Oma fried the fish in butter, white nuggets in golden pools. You wanted to like it, but your tongue constantly felt for the needle of bone.

About Philippa Tucker

An Odyssey

Ryan Padraic


Her husband has gone to hurl himself against the cliffs of ancient Anatolia.

How many oceans apart are they? She has searched for the obscure beach on her father’s maps, but it is not named. She only pinpoints the Sea of Marmara, pinched to the north and south by peninsulas. It is nothing but a drop compared to the rest of the world’s blue.

She writes letters; little perfumed papers that carry her thoughts, her love, across capricious oceans. And they find him. Shaken out of some orderly’s satchel, they fall into dusty fingers; precious recollections of his real life, devoured late at night beneath a guttering candle. He writes back and his thoughts travel in reverse, settling on her antipodean doorstep. An act of magic. She presses them to her lips and believes she can smell earth and wool. Sweat and skin.

At church, at the market, people who know her stare with unsuppressed pity.

The newspapers salivate over shelling and shrapnel, and list the noble dead daily. She stops reading them. Her world shrinks to the marital memories evoked by the words of her lover:

Remember when we sat for our wedding photograph.

Remember our honeymoon, on a more blissful beach.

Suitors come knocking. Penelope, they say, he is dead; but you are young. Do not look wistfully out to sea for the rest of your life.

The letters stopped months ago, but there has been no other word of him. She locks the door and keeps writing.

About Ryan Padraic

My grandfather’s knife

Gretchen Carroll

Treasures and photos of my grandfather used to line the chiffonier in Nana’s  ‘goodroom’. Guests were ushered into this parlour and close family admitted only on special occasions. In every photo, my grandfather wasdressed in his army uniform, and as a child, I assumed that’s all he ever wore. Nana never remarried after he died, remaining a widow for forty-seven years. When she passed away, the photos and mementos migrated to Dad’s study, where hecreated his own display.

One memento of my grandfather that’s noticeably missing today is the knife he was given on his last day working at the US Army Stores in Mangere. By then it was near the end of WWII and, although only in his forties, he was too old for active service and his lungs weren’t the best.

Dad would use my grandfather’s knife for odd jobs around the house, then replace it high up on his bookshelf of keepsakes. Even at nine years old, when Dad let me use it one day while we were gardening, I knew its significance. He cautioned me about the drain beside the front garden where we were pottering, and then set about weeding, not far from where I was.

I’m not sure howit happened. All I remember is it diving down into the water under the grill, and me wanting to go with it. As I peered into the darkness, I knew the knife would flow out to the sea.

About Gretchen Carroll

Manu Berry, Tidal Kowhaiwhai
Manu Berry, Tidal Kowhaiwhai

About Manu Berry


E A Fow

The sky seemed infinite but surly. Its dark clouds robbed the Pacific of its blues and greens, turning it a threatening, surging grey. The boy sat on the bowsprit, eager to sight land as the ship pushed on through the swells, cleaving them into smaller waves, the water rent then rising into translucence, cresting white and falling down, wave upon new wave. The foaming chevron became language, transmitting the ship’s passage.

Europeans had blundered around the Pacific for two hundred years already, looking skyward for guidance while largely ignoring the swirling map below. Molyneux, the shipmaster, would consider the waves; how the wind spoke to them, and how they talked back. He translated that conversation into the equations of sails, into propulsion and direction. Ever vigilant, he knew the watery signs for channels and hull-killing reefs, but the South Seas spoke other tongues he did not comprehend.

The captain, however, heard the murmurs and listened closely to tales of Polynesian navigators whose chart was Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa herself. He listened, watched, and observed many things – changing hues, shorebirds aflight, crowding clouds – but could not find the ocean’s subtle phrasing that would direct them. He must hunger on with his science of measurements, calculations, and papers.

The sky was infinite and bright blue. The boy gazed from the foremast. The water cried out, both guiding the ship and warning the tangata whenua. The future was coming in a ninety-seven-foot, three-masted trojan horse. The future was arriving; the –


About E A Fow

Split Ends

Tracie Lark

I remember your split ends hitting the folds of your wetsuit and thinking you needed a haircut. Also, the freckles on your face and the way you stuffed corn chips into your mouth like a toddler. You were focused on the waves. The water rippled in frenzied dimples by fish forced up by bigger fish. The islands dotted in the distance seemed so perfect I felt I might squint my eye, pinch my fingers, pick one up and place it on my tongue. It would taste like salted caramel. It would melt and slide down my throat. It would be good for me to eat the earth. With my feet tucked into the warm sand, I flicked shells, and tutu’d with my book page. 

I never finished reading it. 

You zipped up and strode towards the water, turning backwards at the tideline to put your flippers on. I felt an uncanny twang in my abdomen as you swam out, ducking under white foam arches. 

I had felt that kind of twang once before. I was excited at first. Later, upon seeing the tiny, deflated balloon on the screen, I was empty. 

I watched you ride in, smooth and carefree, floating on freedom. I decided that was a mood I would wear for a while. Until time made it safe to tell you. I didn’t want to see you sink again. 

I’m reading a new book now, almost finished. Smooth and carefree, we ride the waves of our dreams. 

About Tracie Lark

Movement upon water

June Pitman-Hayes


The silver-rippled wake of a dinghy heading out across the ocean moves in and around the bay’s khaki-coloured fringed curve, nudging foam and mangrove-filtered spit toward the shore.

Make sure your shadow is behind you. Hold your spear just below the surface. My grandmother’s voice resonates from long ago.

I stand knee-deep in the shallows. The sun warms my face.

Let your eyes adjust to the colour and movement of the moana.  Move carefully and quietly, and keep your eyes peeled! 

A large yellow-belly, its tiny bulging eyes casting about in all directions, glides cautiously along the seabed recognising the shapes of foam floating on the surface of the moana, the dappled shade of branches back-lit by the sun, the movement of crabs and other seabed-dwellers scurrying out of its way.

Look carefully now, girl.  Flounder are clever at burying themselves in the sand. You need to look for an outline, like a triangle. You might see the tail sticking out too!

Finding a sunny patch in the shallows, the flounder hovers slightly above, ruffling its fins to make a depression deep enough to conceal its body in the seabed, then settles down to rest.

When you find one, spear it mid-belly, and make sure the barb goes all the way through.

Movement upon the water! A stream of bubbles rises to the surface directly in front of me. A triangular shape materialises upon the seabed.

I thrust! I hear my grandmother’s voice.

About June Pitman-Hayes

Lesley Evans, Ocean 3
Lesley Evans, Ocean 3

About Lesley Evans

She sits on a rock watching the sea

Bronwyn Hegarty


Her rock: broad, flat, tickled by lichen. Well back from the incoming tide, safe from salty splashes carried on the wind.

She watches. Each roll, each curve of the waves, a line of frothy lace. A restless sea, eager to reach the narrow strip of white sand. She watches, like she did every day after chores were done.

Like she had years ago, her children newly minted; a boy, a girl, wary of the waves. Easily toppled. Bare bums hitting wet sand. Thwack. A brief cry. A mouthful of sand. Rallying to scoop handfuls for throwing, for smearing onto blond curls and freckled faces – pink with excitement. Sandy twins, roaring through cherry-red lips, charging towards her.

She sits, watching the gulls dip and glide, skim foamy crests. Flashes of red, grey, white. She imagines salty beads tumbling down black feathers.

No children come here anymore. Grown, dispersed across the globe. Seen on Zoom, on Skype, on Whatsapp. One-dimensional, pixelated.

She remembers small feet sinking into warm pools, laughter as they tickled sea anemones – tentacles retracting. The ever-elusive sandhoppers, stomping until seaweed bubbles popped.

She can still see them curled up asleep on the rock, a tangle of sand-crusted arms and legs.

She never speaks of their beach. They never mention it. Living as they do in cities, they speak of walks in parks, pollution, climate change, floods, rising seas, plastic, dying birds, oil slicks.

She sits.

Her rock. The restless sea.

About Bronwyn Hegarty

New World

Mike Crowl


At noon on moving day, I knew I’d never see the ocean again.

We shifted from our home near the beach to the family farm. I can’t tell you the address because it’s in the middle of nowhere. My dad’s scruffy unmarried brother runs it.

We didn’t want to go but Dad said there’d been a mortgagee sale. Whatever that is. Our house was abandoned to people I saw only once.

In town I never counted more than twenty stars at a time, but at the farm there are too many, far too many, for me to count. The night sky is closing in on me.

My uncle chafes Dad. “Lost your touch, boy. Become citified. Or is it certified?” He’s the only one who laughs. What’s he mean, ‘certified’? Dad’s eyes go weird, like he’s playing hide and seek in his head.

Mum can still work at her old job, but she had to argue with Uncle about using one of his rooms as an office. She keeps muttering, “It’s amazing I can even get a connection.”

Animals too big for me crowd round the pond by the battered shed, drinking, snorting at me.

This nothing water. Where are the waves, where’s the hissing and threshing and roaring? Where’s the swirling up to my toes and me dancing away?

The animals scatter and leave. They hate me being here.

The water sits. Waits. One duck – one duck only – slides into it. The water ignores it. 

Does nothing.

About Mike Crowl 

Claire Beynon, Night Lights, oil on canvas
Claire Beynon, Night Lights, oil on canvas

About Claire Beynon

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