States of Poetry 2016 - Western Australia | ‘Ghost Nets: an elegy’ by Barbara Temperton

Evening, at the edge of the reef
a ghost net snags my fishing line.
Lead-core line is made to last and often
braided round plastic craypots tumbling
from West Coast to Madagascar
to shroud the coastline over there.

I write my dead friend's name in foam,
watch a wave rush it away.
In another's name a rose adrift
surfs an off-shore rip away
over the spines of whitecaps
and into her unknown out there.

Out there, in the gyre of derelict gear
and mid-oceanic islands of snarl,
cast off gill nets, lost purse-seines fishing,
shrouding the dead, the not quite living,
sargassum and its broken dreams.
Far off of the coast of this mute continent
rubber-skins of drowned Zodiacs
are being knitted into ghost nets.

I let my snagged line go and with it the reel,
go back, over reef rock and pool, to the beach.
An albatross is dead on the sand, gut blooming
plastic bits and pieces. Night is inevitable,
as is tide's turn and sea wind-writing in nylon
and polyester filaments, in salt and stinging sand,
in the razor-edge of grasses.

Sea wind rushing inland
papers sand dunes, spinifex, fossils,
with the names of my dead friends,
with the names of ghost nets.
Sea wind carves their names
into the hulls of abandoned boats.


Barbara Temperton