after reading an article by Richard Grant in the Good Weekend
Sitting on a rock, her golden hair
streaming with the morning Sun, the long
supple muscle of her tail glistening, alone
with the sea, she is taut with some inner grief
and keens a lonely song
that only the air can hear and the wind plucks away.
She cries salt tears.
Baekeland began the chain - making a synthetic polymer
copying what the Asian scale beetle secreted naturally
and using it to coat electrical wires: simple, innovative, cheap,
Did he know he was stealing fire?
Through the breach rushed polystyrene, nylon, acrylics,
foam rubber, polythene, polyurethane, plexiglass,
and we ended up with clear plastic lunch-wrap.
Hard, soft, infinitely malleable, plastic
begins life as a nurdle: a pellet
of raw plastic resin. 100 billion kilograms of nurdles
are shipped around the world each year.
Some get lost - in fact, a whole lot get lost.
Dropped, blown by the wind, caught
in the currents of the sea
they find their way around the globe
in ever-growing clusters. A thin scum
of foreign matter joining all the other dross
we can't control: lakes of waste; beaches clogged
with thongs and balls and bottle-caps; pocket combs;
tampon applicators and toothbrushes; syringes
and plastic shopping bags; discarded fishing lines.
The sea's distressed. The nurdles, the little
hopeful balls that build so much we use,
have become part of the melancholy folk-lore
of the deep: they call them Mermaid Tears.
In the still watches of the night
the mythic ghost-ships of old, creaking,
sail again the haunted emptiness.
She's combing her hair. She's looking out to sea.
No man comes near. Scooping
a handful of water she sees the plastic glisten in the Sun.
A seabird, choked with fishing line, lolls
in the tired surf. She will not look at the land.
Sliding off her rock she swims for home. Her last sigh
is what we hear on the wind.
7 July 2009