“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.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones