I remember a seiche, a standing wave
stained with debris that, in a frictionless heave,
boosted my body (scaleless, the caudal fin, the orderly scutes)
so high that for one red instant—climbing,
sinuous and nearly structureless—I flew,
almost blind in the blackwater but squinting,
catching through the silt a view
of floodplain mudstones, crevasse splays
punctuated by point-bar sandstones, strafed rivers
incised to the seaway, the shocked
quartz from the fireball peppering the amber blebs
on tree trunks like shot. It was this one
sharp breath—of joy
despite the going—that bared
my gill rakers, barbed and in rows
for filtering the primordial catch or this
forced treasure: grit, ejecta,
spherules of impact-melt glass (splash-form
and round), warm as wedged marbles or a meal
of nanodiamonds in a sediment package.
And sometime between the moment
of joining the carcass assemblage, our interwoven heads
aligned to the flow, and stopping in the fissile clay
to turn to stone, I thought: You’re going
to love it, birds. You’re going to love it.
Poet’s note: This poem uses fragments of this scientific article.
EJ Shu is an Australian-Canadian poet whose recent work appears in Antiphon, Rosette Maleficarum, Plumwood Mountain, Cordite Poetry Review and Psaltery & Lyre. She makes her home on the north west coast of Tasmania.
Photo by Simon Peel.