Rick Cameron/Flickr

A nursery tale of the sea

Best of Regina winner of the Writing in the Margins contest

                                I
Human, human living above, your tankers
and ferries and outboards deafen us!
The whales cannot catch messages
sent out by their pod and become lost
and the sea lions cannot hear each other
speak, so loud the noises under the sea.

The porpoises have complained
they cannot listen to thoughts, let alone
register a single soul in need of transport
for the uproar!

                Sea mammals, we are busy right now
                inventing the fastest, most efficient machines and gadgets
                in eternity. In time, we will fashion hearing aids to filter out
                background noise for your beleaguered species.

Human, human, living alongside, your ways
encroach on our oceanside. Our crustaceans
clams and conchs and oysters and snails, just look –
Our shells eroded by acid residue in the air,
bloom in the waters: no longer
a star face, a purple skull face burned
onto my sister’s shell.

And my cousins, the star fishes,
their colours come out full of sorrow
and complaint, where once vibrant blue
or green, now bruise purple and magenta
they bleed. Just look how that one’s five
fingers bloat, and rot, and wander off?

                Very interesting crustacean. What’s the matter
                with a skull face? Very cool and Gothic, don’t
                you think? Get with it, things change! Must be
                your starfish have become expressionist painters.
                We are busy with our industry and, really
                haven’t time for complaint.

Humans, humans, all around
us, your careless ways and sloppiness
are getting us down. We, herons and sea gulls,
pelicans and terns, have eaten your bright plastics
mistaken for food: our windpipes choked by such
obdurate matter. And the fishes, too, have filled

their gullets with indigestible stuff.

                Birds and fishes, that is a problem we acknowledge
                but we are busy manufacturing
                items to make life richer, and what else, when it
                comes down to it, can we do

                with the worn-out junk? Objects are made
                and wear out and need to be replaced, and
                we must continue this way. Truly, we
                cannot afford to stop right now.

                                II
Humans, humans, don’t forget
we birds and fishes are survivors
from the dinosaurs, and it’s true

we were around with the great reptiles long before
you; when the birds die and the fish die
soon after will you.

                                III
                (Hmm…there is a Sunday quietness
                to the sea with just one diseased whale with sad, ulcerous eye
                and her dead calf swirling around the tepid
                teacup of brown water.

                Hmm… there is a colourful mountain of it
                I agree… garbage, I mean, rising Himalayan
                like jewels under the sea.

                Hmm…there is a sickness rising
                in the orange-purple suicide air…
                We must contemplate an elevator into space
                or a shaft to the centre of the earth for all
                that’s sick and rotten here, that’s it!

                And send an astronaut or robot poly-toxic clad up
                or down to deal with it.
                But first this! A gadget to remember how
                to make previous (prerequisite) equipment and gadgets
                and artificial intelligent machines – there are so
                many digits and codes, my mind
                can no longer hold…)

This poem won the Best of Regina prize in our eighth annual Writing in the Margins contest. Briarpatch will be accepting entries for the ninth Writing in the Margins contest in September 2019.

gillian harding-russell is a Regina poet, editor, and book reviewer. In 2016 her poem sequence “Making Sense” placed first in Exile’s Gwendolyn MacEwen chapbook competition, and a chunk of it will be published in Exile/ELQ vol42, no 1. Her fourth collection of poems, In Another Air (Radiant Press) has been shortlisted for the City of Regina Poetry Award.

Tags:   capitalism environment writing contest writing in the margins

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