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.
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.
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.
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.