Howard Firkin
Merimbula Aquarium
You anger them,
serene and beautiful
and obviously bored.
You set them squealing their disgust
and rapping knuckles on the glass
and they accord each silken movement of your arms
or flicker of your eye
directly to their intervention.
You’re a plaything,
placid horror of the deep.

However you make sense of this strange world
—these creatures of the thinner atmosphere
swarming in abrupt, odd, unfluidity—
makes sense to me.
Yours is the older beauty;
skin and eyes respond
in waves of colour;
rhythms of your agony and contemplation;
currents of your thought made visible.

Your lore must lead your kind to hope to leave
a rosy image of each life
accumulated in its sandy layers
tossing in the undertow until it finds its shore.
Not you. Yours is an unrecorded sentence
and your cuttlebone will dry
into an unremarkable exhibit.

My sad maroon;
my captive traveller who knew
the change of tides and temperatures and depths,
who preyed and hid from predators,
who felt and knew to fear the shock of waves on rock.
Yourself a message now, a plea
inside a bottle
beached beyond the highest tide.
The latitude and longitude you estimate for rescue
is an unknown language,
meaning -ful and -less,
a code that can’t be cracked
by savages for whom you are a ju-ju,
an amusement;
by savages, for whom the idea of a rescue is unknown.