Great White Shark

Rachael Mead


Down here sunlight casts its wavering nets

but we are already caught, the cage full

of quivering humanity, dangling like bait

over depths immaculate in their mystery.

We fling our sight into the blue, seeking

the thickening shadow, that clotting of cobalt

which defibrillates the heart instants before

the torpedo shape even resolves itself out there

beyond the mesh, on the inner face of the mask.

The rumbled cadence of the hookah quickens

as we hang, exhibiting ourselves to the wild.

Stripped of land and way out of our depth,

we cling to the faith that for these swift minutes

caught in this inverted world, we will continue to breathe.


It’s difficult to know what to tell you, what I saved

from that oddly geometric world, the hard blue planes

speared with light, the hollow toll of cage on boat,

those plates of cold sliding between wetsuit and skin.

I can’t tell you much about the pale underbelly, the fin,

the slashed gills or the blowback of shock after the strike.

I can’t remember much about its solidity, the way its skin

seized the shine from the water and swallowed it whole.

Strangely, I can’t really even recall much about the teeth.

But I can tell you about the eye.  Its density.  Its blackness.

The way she watched us, circling with long, deliberate strokes.

And the only other thing I can say is how it felt to see

that final contrail of silver coins from her tail’s ragged fluke

and in that silence hear my heart, implausibly, still beating.


Rachael Mead is a South Australian writer and poet. In 2013, she was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize and Picaro Press published her second collection, The Sixth Creek.  She was awarded Varuna’s Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship for Poetry in 2011 and again in 2015.

4 replies

  1. Conjures up the gut churning fear beautifully

  2. Vivid and visceral. Thank you, Rachael.

  3. Stunning visual images as well as my tightened stomach put me right in that cage! Wonderful poem Rachael!

  4. I’ve just experienced a shark-cage dive (or dunk) off the South African coast; you capture it perfectly, the swift vagueness of it; the wondering what to make of it afterwards…

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