Tuesday poem: Whales at the coast
June 12, 2012
Whales at the coast
It’s not the acne of barnacles pock-marking flippers;
a bump-headed sculpture garden on triangular flesh,
that phrenology of brainless mounds, indecipherable,
alien’s braille, hinting at a saga of years and fathoms.
It’s not the blimp size, surfers becoming rubber em dashes
as the Miltonic whale justifies them down, wipes them out.
It was the blast that we heard on the shore, as she lay
on her back, performing a solitary circus for her calf,
each heavy grey sail brought down, as if a tent were falling.
The boom arrived two seconds later. I timed it, trying to bring
her epic capers within a scale I knew, of measured ticks
around my watch. She who has Australia’s rock-mouthed coast
as a west-turned comma, against which her life sometimes bobs,
and over which she sends deep explosive barbs of noise
to pierce our bracketed lives. From below, the bass rumble,
as the Right whale cavorts, ecstatic, off shore near Eden.
Eden is an old whaling town on the far south coast of NSW. It has always struck me as amusing that such a horrible industry was carried out in a town with the name of Eden. I have never actually been there, but moved my whale sighting poem further south down the coast of NSW so as to capture the historical and biblical associations of the name.
At least whales can travel our coast now without being slaughtered. Head a little further south again though, and the troubles begin.
This poem appeared in my first poetry collection, The Glass Violin.
I am probably one of the last poets to post a Tuesday poem today. It’s the afternoon in New Zealand, by now. Yesterday was a public holiday for the Queen’s birthday in the ACT (how many does she have, I wonder) and I keep forgetting that it’s in fact Tuesday. Or that’s my excuse, anyway. Click this feather to see all the other Tuesday poems, including a memorable one from Keith Westwater about the details of crime. I’ve already commented on that one, which shows just how pathetic my excuse for being late actually is…Must learn how to lie. Or to relax.