a persistence of jellyfish
flesh liaisons bloom
sea-flowers have no soul

P.S. Cottier

‘sea-flowers…’is from Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

This bluebottle is the sort of lovely Australian creature that delights visitors. The image (PD Wiki Commons) is very fine, but doesn’t show the long tail of the creature, which is the bit that stings.

I have a vivid memory of swimming out of my depth, when one of these wrapped around my arm like a mad doctor’s blood pressure tester. I had to swim to shore, against a slight overtow, with a band of pain tightening around one of my arms. I developed a delightful weal on my arm, resembling a string of rubies given by a particularly sadistic Prince from a fairy tale by Angela Carter.*

At the time, I didn’t know how bad the sting of these creatures was, in terms of how poisonous. Fortunately, they are not too bad for most people, unlike the small invisible jellyfish found further north, which are deadly. (Some people have bad reactions to them though, as with bee-stings. See this article.)

Interestingly, the bluebottle is actually a co-operative of creatures that band together, rather than a single life-form. I believe that these are the sorts of things that we will find on other planets. ‘Other planets’ here means the south coast of NSW.

I believe that Australian wildlife may be touched on in the central Tuesday Poem this week. Press this link and find out.

*UPDATE: I have been flicking through other posts by Tuesday Poets, and just noticed that Helen Lowe is featuring a poem by Tim Jones about Angela Carter. There is an absence of jellyfish in the fine poem, but the coincidence tickled me. Like a bluebottle, but a lot less painful.

Exporting pain

June 22, 2011

I wrote this poem about three years ago, and it seems like a good time to post it here.  There is a push in Australia to ban live exports of sheep and cattle to countries where Australia has no real control over the conditions in which they are slaughtered (i.e. everywhere else but here). This is truly a horrible industry; not just because of the methods of slaughter often being unregulated but because of the long confinement that any trip from Australia necessarily involves.  Here is a link to one of the sites pushing to have the trade banned.

It was quite predictable that there would be an outburst of stories featuring ‘honest Aussie farmers’ whose living is being threatened by ‘animal activists’.  It’s unfortunate if anyone is really hurt financially, but it’s simply unacceptable that we are raising animals that are then being being tortured to death once exported. Kill the animals here, under proper religious supervision where necessary, and don’t turn a conveniently blind eye to the suffering of sentient creatures.  I am a vegetarian, but there is no neutrality on this issue. Many meat-eaters have also been appalled to learn of the treatment of cattle in some foreign slaughter-houses, and the response to recently released video of conditions in some Indonesian abattoirs has reached far beyond the usual groups of animal rights supporters.

Any method of killing animals causes suffering, but this must be minimised, if people insist on eating them. The test for whether an industry is humane is ‘how would people feel if it was thousands of dogs being exported and killed like this?’ Imagine filling a container vessel with dogs and shipping them to, say, China to face a slow and painful death.  What’s the difference with sheep and cattle?  Oh, yes, that’s right.  They’re not ‘pets’.  Just animals. Delightfully logical.  Enough rant, here’s the poem.

Global farms

Stock cubes

are sent to sea, flavoursome squares

of mutton flesh and bone, seasoning,

woolly sardines.


Between pasture and knife

the blue stretches, and the yellow,

as rivers soak downwards,

contained in time.


No truck of guilt to turn from,

met on sudden road. Squalor

bleats over dollar’s equator,

safely unseen.

P.S. Cottier