Some lost and broken thing

Two interesting things happened this week: a whale beached itself on the Gold Coast and the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers got even more horrifying.


some lost and broken thing

the whale, thrown off course,
a compass no doubt spinning in its skull,
came ashore in the night.

its belly, fat and heavy with myth,
bottomed out against a sandbank,
then hauled itself, fat on grief,
into the shallows, and waited
as the tide fell away beneath it.

in stranger days than this we might
have taken to the sand in celebration,
lit a pyre and hauled the beast above high water,
sunk a blade into the flank and carved the fat
in slabs, rendered blubber into lamp oil,
cut and cured the meat, carved totems
into bone and offered up the heart
to old Poseidon.

now we, so thoroughly enlightened,
so insistent on solidity of borders,
hang fences round our necks,
take those who’ve lost their way
or fled from something brute and full of teeth
and say ‘no dear, this is not your place.’

we turn the the lost about,
point them back towards the waves
from which they came
and declare the brace and rope
and chain we used to haul them out
the proof
             of our compassion.

when the ocean offers up a metaphor
we look anywhere but inward for meaning,
for the risen scrimshaw guilt,
the bloodied history written
in our bones and all our unpaid rent,
we tell ourselves everything can be forgotten,

that all history is palimpsest

unremembered as words written in sand, 
scraped by tide and draining out to the pacific:

“Here some lost and broken thing
tried to make its way to shore,
here we hurled it back to sea.”

2 thoughts on “Some lost and broken thing”

  1. It is just a little bit embarrassing to cry in an international airport. And, I had to look up a word, even more so.

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