Poem 240 grams
Poem read for World Environment Day, June 5 2020 from Planet in Peril anthology. On YouTube. My poem is 11’45 in.
Research Lab, Lord Howe Island, August 2018
Inside, I sort through a tide line, poured into a bucket
searching for nurdles in brown detritus mostly organic,
find soft brown globes, small air bladders, most with stems,
Colours are best, I can’t detect the plastic transparencies.
Outside, I weigh a pendulous shape, a defrosted Shearwater,
the drama needing much more weight. I measure the wing,
a wonder structure never put to use skimming the ocean
or soaring in the ballet of courtship, living life to the full.
This chick clawed its way out of a dark burrow
two metres underground and died in the blinding light.
I use callipers on the bill then start enthusiastically plucking
its belly, feeding a garden pillow fight, feathers flying
I thrust some into a small plastic bag, noting details
for chemical testing. The steel blade cuts into the skin
but being too gentle, unused to this work, I slice
through the connective tissue again and again, struggling
to find the stomach sac amongst the dense architecture.
It’s empty, easy to miss. I push aside the glistening worminess,
the moist earthiness we share, cold nests inside instead of warmth.
The ropey intestine breeds distant cousins we have commandeered.
Our other half, the world within our world sharing our deep history
of symbiosis deserving nourishment, thousands of species inside
and outside, outnumbering our own body’s cells, meanwhile
tissue, fat and blood wedge intimately under my nails.
I carve the nuggety gizzard, peel back its border, open it out
like a fig revealing small black thorns (cuttlefish beaks), separate
the microplastics piece by piece, discards of our cult, proof
our worship is reckless and that there are no islands anymore.
I slip them in a bag, but they stick to my fingers slippery with slime
favouring disgust over negligence. How to make out-of-sight manifest?
A window onto terra, from my home 600 ks due west, feeding
the Great Pacific Gyre, the anonymous centres and edges, the frag.
Cruelty can be ecstatic, forgetful or as casual as littering,
letting storm drains do their work, vomiting plastic into the sea
eroding to tiny then tinier farting phenols and phallates.
Twentieth century anxieties are being revised and updated.
The sky blooms a beautiful weight of blue, an endemic
Currawong rows overhead flashing black and white,
the colours which reality once scoured to the horizon.
I find myself stroking the soft dark head without thinking.
This poem has been selected for two ecopoetry anthologies:
Poetry for the Planet: An anthology of Imagined Futures, Litoria Press, 2021;
Planet in Peril: An Anthology For Our Time, Ed., Isabelle Kenyon, Fly on the Wall, 2020.