'Ghost Nets and Waterlines' by Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta | States of Poetry Tasmania - Series Two

14 August 2016

Our Earth Mother cries when the nets are set adrift
They travel loosely and kill sea life as they go
Drifting in the moon-tides the grim reapers travel wide
Through tidal water homes of the all-life living free
To drift and pluck from the all-life every living thing
That shares the bloodlines of the all-life of our world
The nets drift on to kill like ghosts the fish can’t see
And plastic muck that people dump in seas so old
And the nets will drift and drift as if they really should
To spread and twist like floating shrouds to look for more
The birds and fish get tangled in monster webs
Made of twisted ropes and twine to make a deathly claw
Like silent ghosts their tentacles drift wherever they will go
Until the sea is struggling against this ever shifting wall
For nets keep on coming like spidery ghosts of sin
And we see them killing the most ancient life of all.

And so it is with ghost nets coming on our shores
Where island people use them to tell stories of the sea
With kelp and fibre string and flotsam jetsam as our stores
Telling stories of island life that talk respect for living free
Recycle and renew our strongest feelings of respect
For the sea and its life that sustains us from the brine
Our island life is a freedom with the sea that we protect
We leave our softest footprints in the golden sands of time
To be happy in connection of this wondrous living world
We walk the beaches to feel the sand crunch between our toes
Along we walk collecting shells and bull kelp come ashore
For telling stories and creating songs of islands that we know
And dance our stories in island festivals to celebrate it all
From islands north and islands south we tell you of our lore
As we watch the muttonbirds return to their island holes
And the turtles come in cycles done many times before

We string the stories from our island ways,
Stories of broken cycles that suffer as they die
From drifting human offal always there to prey
We tell stories about deadly ghost nets always floating by
Yet still we sniff the sea smells tainted with odorous death
While we weave grass string stories and shells from the shore
The spiral webs from coloured nets tied in with bull kelp leaf
And woven in many colours telling stories of the lore
Weaving our sea patterns like coral families made of string
With nets and kelp and woven spirals making stories come alive
Into the spirals of coral and kelp we make these stories sing
And weave from the things we find whenever they arrive
Through stories and bloodlines with the all-life of the sea
Feeling the water and smelling the essence coming on the breeze
Of crystal sands and timeless spaces ever they will be
And waterlines join our islands across waves of memories

Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta


This was a visual arts collaboration between Eribus (Darnley Island) and Tasmanian Aboriginal artists using ‘ghost nets’ as the theme. I was the only writer participating. The result was an exhibition in the Tasmanian Museum and Arts Gallery courtyard in 2016.

Jim Everett-puralia meenmatta

Jim Everett-puralia meenmatta

Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta was born at Flinders Island, Tasmania in 1942. He is from the clan plangermairreenner of the Ben Lomond people, a clan of the Cape Portland nation in north-east Tasmania. His working life includes fifteen years at sea as a fisherman and merchant seaman, the Australian Regular Army for three years, and over fifty years formal involvement in the Aboriginal Struggle. He has a long history in the public service in Aboriginal Affairs, and has visited many remote Aboriginal communities across Australia. Jim began writing poetry at an early age. He wrote his first play, We Are Survivors, in 1984, and produced, directed, and acted in it. His written works now include plays, political and academic papers, and short stories. Jim has produced and been associate producer in many documentary films. He is published in many major anthologies. Jim lives on Cape Barren Island writing and maintaining involvement in cultural arts nationally.