Great Barrier Reef

B. R. Dionysius

 

(i)

 

They say it’s the length of Japan, if that group

Of home islands was stretched out beside the

Queensland coastline; a great lung of Poseidon’s

Branching from the continent’s spine of white

Beach, exhaling microscopic spores into the sea’s

Vast cavity. Atlantean sunk beneath the Pacific

Ocean’s mythic blue abyss, the living tissue is

Larger than Cook’s England, as legendary as

Arthur’s Albion & as treacherous as Lyonesse.

After all, it conspired to hole the Endeavour.

 

 

(ii)

 

Along the brain-corrugated reef, light harpoons

Into water translucent & smooth as Murano glass.

Photons lobotomise; calm waters protect volcanic

Nibs of mountains we call islands. The reef is a

Front gate; white picket fence that keeps out sharks.

You can make out clam bunkers shut fast against

Riptides that blow subterranean wind in their faces.

Here, the wet metamorphosis of garden caterpillars;

Black & yellow striped nudibranchs, inch over polyps

That house migrants in their hundreds of thousands.

 

 

(iii)

 

It is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon ultramarine.

A billion generations have crowned its hard teeth

Before we came down from the trees. Here, time

Is measured in the millennia that green turtles have

Spent heaving their way up beaches to deposit their

Golf ball-sized capsules. Or how barnacles cling for

The length of the British Empire’s reign upon a rock.

Such perspectives diminish our enterprise; as bulk oil

Carriers slide carefully around the razor-edged reefs;

Like a sapper probing for mines in the Afghan sand.

 

 

(iv)

 

The rich organ now wears Asian funeral white. Its

Cancer the antithesis of black Western mourning.

The technicolour algae depart from their luxury posts

Like passengers on a stricken liner, leaving ghosts in

The shell. The sea is on a slow boil. The coral is dying

Its emphysemic death as parts of the great lung collapse.

It is falling into the shade of bleached whale bones as

Pieces of brain wash up on the beach; a tidal keepsake.

No need for a glass-bottomed boat to sail the future.

It is a scab on the ocean’s leg that is best left to heal.

 

B. R. Dionysius was founding Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival. His poetry has been widely published in literary journals, anthologies, newspapers and online. His eighth poetry collection, Weranga was released in August 2013. He lives in Ipswich, Queensland where he runs, watches birds, teaches English and writes sonnets.

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