Cetaceous floater
chewing soft cud of sky krill
blubbered cumulus

P.S. Cottier
skywhale launch

The best thing to happen during Canberra’s Centenary Celebrations (there are a lot of capitals around at the moment in the nations’s capital) took to the air outside the National Gallery on Saturday.

Skywhale, a balloon sculpture designed by Patricia Piccinini, is not exactly your typical whale. She has a bit of the turtle about her, and wings made of breasts. Is she an angel? I don’t know, but her presence is peaceful and wonderful; confusing those who like straight lines and easy classifications.

The money, some people are shouting! The outrageousness of producing a whale that isn’t even a proper whale for the centenary of an inland city! The threat to mental law and order! Read some of the comments here on RiotACT, where the haiku was posted by me as a comment. I didn’t want to argue the case, as Skywhale seemed so strangely perfect in her ambiguity. A poem seemed more appropriate.

There should be more of this sort of perplexing beauty, confounding those who think that art should be confined to easily recognisable portraits and lovely landscapes punctuated with useful sheep:

Moustaches and merinos
made Australia what she is today.
No fleecy clouds of maybe here!
No blubbering queens of perhaps,
with flowing boas of breast to tease
certainty into mere sniffle;
our capital’s castaway.

P.S. Cottier

Through all the controversy, Skywhale maintains her dignity, moving gently through the sky with her wings of breasts, a kindly and whimsical presence, powered by hot air but quite serene. Skywhale is certainly the Queen of the Centenary. She will soon be touring the country, looking down on her subjects with that benign and somewhat Mona Lisa smile.

Mona Lisa with barnacles

Mona Lisa with barnacles

Long may she swish through the skies, delighting those who prefer their art to have a little whimsy, and to pose a few questions, at the same time that it delights and sets us free.

Click this feather for further poetry:
Tuesday Poem

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.

PS Cottier

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.

Tuesday Poem

About whales

September 6, 2011




Huge rubber torpedoes loose themselves onto shore;

a giant’s speed-humps beached.  Incomprehensible,

these commas in a language no-one knows to speak.

Like sheep they follow each other, but no canny dog

can turn them, head them back to deep supporting sea.

Victims of gravity, bulk weighs them down,

and spread of sand becomes a massy grave.

That short word why grows in watchers’ minds,

pressing like the bodies on that fatal beach.

No answer comes. We water them like giant bulbs,

and strain to plant them back in bed of ocean.

But sometimes there can be just too much coast.

Unseen sirens called them, and some turned back

to dire, heavy death.  Lapped by waves,

gentle as a fading memory, what do whales see

in that final surge, before their spirits swim away?

P.S. Cottier