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From: Vol.07 N.02 – Writing in the Pause

Three poems

by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett



A simmering

sky, I tuck myself


Nothing can catch

a brink, a bank, an edge,

even if it does flow


I take my body

to the margins.

Hold. Hover.






When nothing is full or dirtless.

Not to be eaten or confessed.

When the unwhole, unmooned

surface is left. There will be no

swimming in no sea there will be

no swimming & no sea there will be

no swimming & no clean.




Common Blue    

for a kin-dread spirit


Pages from my journal, an article on the effects of microplastics on invertebrates, and an exercise for monitoring water pollution with invertebrate indicator species are plaited into my hair & transcribed after swimming.


When the sea’s is the first water to touch your throat, the sky’s the first to meet your face and despite the remote location, microplastic fibres make pools within pools as you dip first your feet, then legs, then torso, shoulders ducking before brain can say, don’t take hygiene precautions.

Swallows continue the loops within loops as you scull in dark water. You are early today, the only human body fibres identified in deep-sea water as clouds bulk and hoard their rain at a concentration of 70.8 a cormorant pulls across, a common blue between, monitoring below, more life than you can touch.

This is a fieldwork exercise that involves sampling water. Flat on your back you rinse through with cold, in an all-over spearmint flush with invertebrates. Through a front crawl, the green undermurk ensures students do not eat, scratch their noses, or rub their eyes trickle through teeth need to wash with appropriate cleansers.

Rain shatters down and you realise you are drifting. You intensify your purpose. Muscles focus and hurl you towards disease-causing chemicals pulling species together examined clean water (mayfly) some pollution (caddis fly) high pollution (blood worms) dismantling sea until it is clean, filtering blood until it’s pristine particles pool at your feet, polymers in surface water sweet new bonds between species lift each other protective in shared care aesthetic. A new bind (synthetic).

Published: October 2020
Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

is a writer and academic. Her creative and critical work has a largely environmental focus and publications include Of Sea (Penned in the Margins, forthcoming, 2021), The Grassling, A Geological Memoir (Penguin, 2019), Swims (Penned in the Margins, 2017) and A Social Biography of Contemporary Innovative Poetry Communities: the Gift, the Wager and Poethics (Palgrave, 2017). She is Associate Professor in Creative Writing at Northumbria University and is currently researching moss and wetlands.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.