I thought I’d post this poem following the amazing news story last week about Mick Fanning, the surfer who kept his cool when a large shark came up behind him and took hold of his surf board rope. The Australian was filmed as he fended off the shark and swam away to safety.
The second section of the poem might require a little explanation. Some divers and fishermen have managed to stun great whites by stroking the tips of the sharks’ noses, which are full of nerve endings. It’s thought that the touch overloads their sensory system and induces a dreamy, trancelike state. Makes you wonder who first tried it out.
White was first published in Other Poetry, II.18.
Salt water drags across the yellow eye
looking up from gloom to light –
fanning out the sun’s cascade of rays,
a shadow slithers on the surface –
you are dark, directly below.
With a thrash of the tail rise up fast and smooth,
seize and crush with one savage bite.
Grind a little, then let go –
Retreat to a distance, watch and wait
as your succulent dinner bleeds, slowly, to death.
Rise through unfurling clouds of blood.
Eat, and retreat to the deep to digest.
A large shape on the surface, cutting its splutter.
Rise steadily, slowly, to investigate –
Above the shape something half-formed,
outside of the world, an illusion.
Rise, start to bring up one (left) eye.
Then, on the zenith of the nose,
and in the racing ancient mind,
the sudden stun of bliss,
unmediated, never before known –
then drifting, hypnotised, back into the dark.
For the first time
touched by the hand of man.