Poets speaking up to Adani – Margaret Bradstock

And now the Reef

Flowers turned to stone! Not all the botany
Of Joseph Banks, hung pensive in a porthole,
Could find the Latin for this loveliness…

        – Slessor, ‘Five Visions of Captain Cook’


For them it was unassailable  

an inferno of sea and sharp coral

a Venus fly-trap drawing them in. Fragile

was never the word for this underwater forest

of blooms, at low tide a vertical hedge

of skeletal rock, holding Endeavour to ransom.


Off Heron Island, incandescent

chameleon colours once visible from space,

by night the Reef’s a construction site

for marine cities, a limestone world,

the coral polyps always building, never leaving

the safety of their homes except to feed.


The reefs outside support both predator

and prey, in an intricate dance of survival.

Cleaner-fish congregate at thriving

cleaning-stations, like a suburban car-wash,

to eat dead skin and parasites

from manta rays already queued for service.


Seahorses change colour and texture, matching

the coral they cling to for protection.

Once a year, at full moon, great ribbons

of coral spawn drift on the tide, most

to be eaten by fish. Enough survive. Or would

if you could put the Barrier Reef in a glass box.


Bleaching, the crystal tines turn ghostly white

and fade, like flowers dying.



Margaret Bradstock



‘And now the Reef’ was previously published in tremble (International Poetry Studies Institute, Canberra, 2016)





Photos in collage from: CSIRO CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

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