by Anne Casey, Australia
beyond the sleepy dapplings of the mangroves trailing lazy limbs into the drowsing waves across the turquoise crests of placid currents that lap up to the gently sloping shore out past the breakers idly frothing beneath the rolling drifts of whitecap spray once I saw her dance, her head encircled brightly in blooming rubicund and blazing saffron stars tresses dressed with every hue there budding ribbons streaming emerald and vivid sapphire-blue peacock-feathered tendrils trailed behind her a giant clam gasped deep and wide with awe humpback whale came to slowly drift above her their voices joined the wind to sing her praise seals paused to frolic in her swirlings a maori wrasse gliding past took his fill and later as the evening stretched and lingered slow to let the day slip to the sea the sun came slanting through that glassy window to spread a crimson blanket for her sleep leaping with first light came the dugongs and dolphins circling idly by her side dragon-fish nimbly flitting through her fingers Neptune’s Cup Sponge brushing past her toes as clownfish coaxed a path around her shoulders where her braids were twined with amber and with rose; turtles grazed on grassy rolling borders, porcupine ray rippling in the flats ribboned pipefish nibbled at the treats she offered mantis shrimp and krill came picking at the crumbs in her garden suffuse with every colour bottlebrush bordered staghorn skirting ferns but storms came to dash her radiant features her gorgeous tresses have all turned white with woe her feathered boas are falling all around her blossoms fading from magenta, fuschia, gold angelfish in anguish bow their heads down swimming hard against a swiftly rising tide she is drowning in a sea awash with cobalt deadly metals fill the channels where she breathes her lovely limbs are shackled down with plastics her lungs are laced with deadly manganese a crown of thorns to pierce her pretty head a bed of sludge to lull her in her dreams her cherished creatures perish all around her in the clutch of slowly simmering seas where once beyond the dapplings of the mangroves beneath the drowsing waves and turquoise crests way out past the breakers idly frothing, I saw her dance, her head encircled brightly in blooming rubicund and blazing saffron stars tresses dressed with every hue there budding ribbons streaming emerald and vivid sapphire-blue
This poem is a lament for the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on Earth, which is in dire jeopardy due to the impacts of human activities. It was awarded 2nd Place and Highly Commended in the Planet in Peril Poetry Competition (UK), a joint initiative by Fly on the Wall Poetry Press; World Wildlife Fund; The Climate Coalition; Dr Michelle Cain (Oxford University); former Derbyshire Poet Laureate, Helen Mort; and wildlife photographer, Emily Gellard. It was published in Planet in Peril anthology (Fly on the Wall 2019). This poem was also selected for performance by professional actors as part of The Monologue Adventure in Sydney in May 2019.