Together but alone they come in from the rain,
wait at the counter of The Wicker Man Café.
She admires his shark grey boots and denim thighs.
He looks back, meets her eyes. She smiles.
She orders chocolate cake and tea.
He orders a bacon roll and coffee.
They take separate tables, numbers two and five.
She sits facing the street, looks at the harbor.
She admires umbrellas, orange boats, blue water.
She thinks – is this the start of a long lasting love affair?
With sparkle and poise she spreads a hard knob of butter.
She thinks – find extra pleasure in the small.
She thinks – the possibilities are endless.
He sits with his back to the window, scans the jobs page.
He clocks the breasts on the young waitress.
He thinks – should never have quit the rig. He tries his phone, searching for a signal. He thinks – I’ve no more fight.
He thinks – it’s all too late. She tries not to stare when he stumbles out the door.
On her way home she buys roses scented with moon-dust.
A mermaid in a cab delivered her note, handwritten in wavering purple ink.
She chose a secret location on Long Island at midnight.
Strictly no pictures, no questions and I must come alone.
She said she admired my honesty and the scoop on Leonard Cohen.
The tide was out, the mist was in and it looked like a no show
when suddenly she appeared by the rocks, lapping quietly at my feet.
She wore a blue mac. A fedora pooled shadows over her eyes. Such an honor to meet you, I began. Thanks for letting me tell your story.
This is not about me, well not much, she said.
Her voice rippled and skipped through the dark. It’s about you guys. My warnings
aren’t getting through, not
even the tsunami of 04. You morons
have short memories and no understanding
of omens. We don’t know where we went wrong, me
and Neptune. We were good parents. Fuck knows
we tried our best. Ever since you crawled
onto dry land you’ve lost your way.
What do you mean exactly? I asked. I told you no questions, she replied and a cold wave rose up and slapped me in the face.
We sent clear signs, reminders every day. It’s hard work
maintaining the tides, the rhythm, all that pulling
and pushing to teach you the value of self-discipline, of balance
and how to give and take. We’re sick
of your abuse and the shit you dump in the water. I could
go on and on but I’m not here to give another
lecture cos the truth is, you’re screwed. No,
I’m here to tell you I’m quitting.
Neptune hitched a ride to Andromeda
five years ago. He sent a postcard last month
and says he’s doing swell. I stayed behind, hoping
for change but now your time is up. There’ll be no
more marinara pizza, no more calamari fritters, no
more weekends hanging out at the beach and no
more yachting holidays for the jet set. There’ll be no
more clouds with silver linings and no
more rain on your dahlias. You will be forever grounded.
I’m off to Orion for my new job as Head of Desert Prevention.
My advice in these dying days is to forget love, it will fail you.
Read Dostoevsky and respect your cat, he is wiser than you know.
And before I could protest, she disappeared,
dancing and leaping into a vortex of spray.
In the old days I was Canis Marinus, Dog of the Sea.
I was born in a mangrove swamp of the Antipodes,
abandoned by Ma at first swim to the murky
mysteries of waves, death and capitalism.
I was crated frozen to the Land of the Free.
Now they call me Tiger, Blue, Hammerhead,
Great White, Art-wank. I prefer Sea-Dog
but they call me shock, ragged, monster, demon
or jaws (cue scary music and pearly sharps to die for)
the perfect engine and eating machine, soulless
beast, killer of slaves and pretty girls in bikinis.
I can morph into fin soup, a Chinese delicacy
or a shifty money lender. A role model for the aspiring
acolytes of Damien or a trophy tanked up on formalin
stinking behind the thin glass wall of privilege.
Predators queue and gawp
at the impossible.
I stare straight back
and what’s more
I never blink.
I was inspired to write this poem after seeing Damien Hirst’s so-called conceptual art entitled ‘The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’. I found it disturbing to see a wild creature exploited and displayed in an art gallery. My feelings of distaste and anger increased when I later learned that Hirst had several Tiger Sharks killed for his art work. Even though the sharks are preserved in formaldehyde they start to decompose after a few years and need to be replaced. Other animals have also been killed by Hirst for his art, including cows and calves for the piece titled ‘Mother and Child (Divided)’. I find the morality of this indefensible. It is one thing to kill for food or survival but not for art or entertainment. Hirst’s pickled shark was sold for millions.
I also find it sad that humans have a tendency to demonise and label as ‘other’ anyone who is different from themselves, this includes other species, races, religions, sexual orientations, disability, etc. Even sharks can respond positively to kindness and afffection. They are not the vicious, mindless monsters portrayed by our culture but a beautiful creature trying to survive the best it can, just like the rest of us. Please watch this amazing YouTube video showing a shark conservationist petting and playing with a shark. Perhaps they are truly the dogs of the sea.