Broken Ocean

1 May 2014

What was missing was the cries of seabirds that surrounded
the boat on previous voyages …
” – Ivan Macfadyen, yachtsman.

In the past we’d seen birds following the boat
resting on our mast like sentinels
or wheeling in the distance
feeding on pilchards.
The birds were missing because there were no fish
no sound but wind in the rigging waves knocking
against the hull the steady thud of debris.

Now a mother-ship’s trawling the reef
stripping it day after day
working at night under floodlight.
We feared pirates but Melanesian men
came alongside with gifts sugar-bags full of fish.
All they wanted was tuna the rest dumped as rubbish
in the maw of that rotting sea.

After we left Japan lights of small moored ships at its edges
battered freighters and patrol boats the ocean itself was dead
the shape of a tumorous whale rolled on the surface
like the dome of an old Buddhist stupa
or an alien power-plant.

Power-poles snapped off by the last killer wave trail wires
in the middle of the ocean yellow plastic buoys synthetic rope
fishing lines and nets our propeller entangled
as though in a mangrove swamp.
No turtles dolphins flurries of birds
or sharks for 3,000 nautical miles.

In the waters above Hawaii you could see right into the depths
skeletal as xray artworks collages of modernity
debris all the way down soft-drink bottles
pieces of junk the size of a truck a factory chimney
sticking out of the water.
Sailing through this garbage dump plastic and flotsam
scraping the length of the boat

we’d push for a fleet to clean up the mess
if environmental damage from burning the fuel
wasn’t worse than just leaving it there.

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