‘Carried from Hell’s Gate, Tasmania’ by Kerry Greer
Pushing empty packets into the bin,
I see the whales, on the news,
470 of them lying haphazardly like
precious flotsam a child might find,
washed up in Macquarie Harbour.
470 seems closer to an evacuation
than an accident.
Sometimes, as a girl, swimming out so far
there was no sand within reach of my feet,
a strand of kelp would wrap around my hand,
and I would scream, thinking this was it,
the monster from the deep had found me.
The pilot whales have come to the shore.
They want to look us in the eye,
so we can see what we have done.
We look them in the eye, kneeling beside
their vastness as if before a shrine.
In the kitchen, soap suds swallowing
a tower of plates, pots, lunchboxes,
I’m bent double, nun in prayer
around the image: 940 eyes
and each eye like our own,
bottomless. One eye turns,
the hulk of the great creature
no longer able to glide gracefully,
to see blue on blue, sky over sea,
as breath meets body, breeching.
Only air up here,
more than they will need.
A calf ebbs with the tide, sliding
towards the sanctuary of its mother.
The mother keens, soft notes washing
over the calf, like a last kiss soothing
its steepled, sacred face from afar.
They are grieving as they die.
We push them out to sea as best
we can, but they come back.
We don’t know why for sure, we say.
Oh, there are worse things than sea monsters,
they reply, with one glance of their ancient eye,
a moon in the face of the sea, displaced.
Imagine you had things inside you
that could not be pushed away.
Imagine you had no hands to carry it back,
so you arrive with your body, your time,
on the shores of Hell’s Gate, where
you will not be turned away.
And then, a breath, last gasp
of all the beauty you ever swam through,
breathing it in with your eyes, breeching one last time,
but only with your eyes, your breath.
The line of sky-meets-sea, blue-on-blue as you,
the eye closing, everything flat as the distant horizon,
something you’ll never reach, as far down as you push.