The Coral Garden

Our time down here is short. Watch carefully,
and I will show you how to dodge the light
whose lances pierce the blue below with white
hafts that wound and feed this shallow sea.
We’ll share the humour in the moray’s grin, for he
can laugh like Death. He understands this bright
pageant. Every creature within sight’s
an incandescent killer, sinning, free.

You do not break the surface; it breaks you.
And what flows down beneath these waves is more
immersed in evanescence than the shore-
bound sack of bones that thought it knew
what time was all about, and when to leave.
The coral garden wants you. Only breathe.


Full fathom five? No time for that. We’re down
where pugilists in clown face guard the waving
face of each anenome. The roving
reef shark wanders amiably round,
oblivious to you and me. We’re bound
to have his kind attention, but he’s waiving
recognition. Now our shadow’s moving
a little deeper, a little further down.

We learn again what colour is, and time
is tightened, stretched until it only flows
in patient, ebbing seconds. Now our slow
ascent along the cliff face is a climb
to altitude. No sooner does your burning
chest abate than you talk of returning.


Parrot fish and angels clean the reef;
iridescent wrasses, gold and blue,
clean angel fish and parrot. So what’s new?
Eating turds for breakfast is the brief
of every soul. Post-Darwinist belief
that somehow human nature could accrue
some special status simply isn’t true –
we see shit-eating grins, but not the teeth.

So don’t pretend that lobster in the pot
is sweeter when our ignorance of sources
denies excreta’s one of its main courses.
Wish truth were always beauty? Well it’s not.

I only wish that people had the grace
these fish have when they stuff shit in their face.

The rumour of a passing file of silent
grenadiers, distant flashing epaulettes
of silver, guards the border of the depths.
A pageant, witnessed through the blithe lens
of fancy. You might never leave these islands.
But why depict how Life calls in its debts
as sweet Romantic rhapsody? Do let’s
admit for once its means are often violent.

And when entranced by light and silent grace,
let no impassioned thoughts inveigle you.
This cohort’s made of pretty killers who
are second-rate compared to our race.

For though Death’s means are seldom found deficient,
humanity is vastly more efficient.


Five feet below the surface, everything
comes clear. Though sunlight reaches far below,
until you breach the thermocline, you’ve no
clear picture what you’re witnessing.
A hanging moment – motionless, you cling
to clarity of vision, try to slow
the heavy, even seconds. Still, you know
there is no greater joy than surfacing.

Why life should love the sun’s no mystery.
The crowded, shallow spaces that it reaches
are rife with testament, as are the beaches.
So why dive deep with such alacrity?
And when you reach the depth where colour peters
out, what have you earned but fourteen meters?

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