(for Timothy Treadwell & Amie Huguenard)
Through thirteen seasons your trails
ran down to coasts that fell to ocean
hues of rain and dull precipitous sleet.
To this airy solitude of glacial landscapes
you travelled each year, observing
each hazy summer’s fall the late salmon run;
that frenzied, endless upstream rush –
the frantic, ceaseless, slippery struggle, instinct
against instinct: to survive and to need.
Such extremes you needed to feel alive…
So you swam to escape Long Island greys,
spiralling down each glaring precipice
of your unsatisfied, unsatisfying life –
into your orphan persona epiphany.
And so – your calling to Kaflia Bay,
where this icy, vacant, carnivorous indifference
repaid your stoic selflessness
in dealing with each encroaching threat,
each poaching, determined, implacable adversary;
harassed to the point of no return
by an outside world no longer your sanctuary.
Inside your camouflaged campsite you sat
and prayed to whatever gods for drought to cease –
invoking nature’s merciless torrents…
With each named bear, each new encounter,
each wild, fresh and exhilarating danger
you seemed to grow in spirit – a Koniag warrior;
a resplendent, self-appointed saviour.
Into the dilate confessional of your camera
you poured chapter and verse of your chosen exile;
each practised take a scene in your drama.
Letterman – Discovery – NBC: their lenses
all swooped as magpies to your celebrity’s glint,
absorbing the incandescence of your conviction –
their nutritious diet of network ratings…
So now, we are left to sift through your images.
Your absence lingers as an empty frame
from your hours of solitary, secluded videos,
each serene still a lasting souvenir of what you were –
an adolescent clinging to childhood’s soft toys
through all the pitilessly advancing years;
a moth to a flame of fur and claw
A flash. Blowout.
Again Earth’s bowels gush
their incendiary blackening poisons.
A beacon of floral cascading flame
illuminates the fathoms of surrounding ocean.
Thoughts are snuffed out by smoke and heat.
The past lies discarded on the sea bed; forgotten.
Boats circle busily. Radios crackle. Voices are raised.
Salt waters shoot in futile arcs to douse
the empty and abandoned platform;
its solitary, hulking, skeletal frame
now desolate as an unused football stadium.
The sea consumes its man-made meal,
and the arterial plague beneath
awaits the cue to release its silent disease.
Semen-like, the slick advances;
drifting in a formless, shapeless,
textured mass – the shadow spreading
from its submerged and weeping epicentre.
This leaking well, the source of thickening
strings that swirl and stick to all they touch,
once slept – at peace with the reservoir
of epoch-crushed potential stored below.
Containment boom surrounds the islands.
The rhythmic waves that lap the beaches
are now gentle, obedient, load-bearing vehicles –
unwitting, subverted, impartial carriers
of creation’s distilled and pestilent essence.
The currents of these coasts now roll
with underwater ink-jet plumes – insoluble
and ineradicable as coffee’s essential bitterness.
Uncomprehending gulls circle the distance.
A sea plane glides along the horizon,
dumps its load of chemical dispersant,
heads for base. Seen from space,
the oil resembles an enormous pool
from an overturned and expensive ink bottle
dislodged by some careless god’s huge elbow.
Soft sands contrast their whiteness
with the coal-black sprays left staining their stretches.
The sky is clear as a senator’s conscience.
Stalking tuna circle mackerel shoals
that undulate and shimmer in revolving balls –
swift tornadoes of glinting scales
amassed to disorientate and confuse.
Solitary sharks patrol and cruise;
observing the Bluefins as they gorge.
Plankton floats in eerie clouds
amid the Gulf Stream’s incubating warmth.
Turtle carcasses collect in the shallows,
littering the shoreline like wrinkled bags.
The burst pipe leaks away; relentless.
Beneath the waves remote craft hover.
Tweezer-like robotic arms extend to close
the valve between the spewing punctured holes
and their concealed, pressurised source.
Above the surface, nervous eyes look on in rows;
arms are folded, brows furrowed, pens chewed.
Harassed officials choose their words
for careful statements – Christ, how does this look…
Building-like, the dome is lowered:
a spectral structure sunk through the depths;
a grey Lego piece, or the top of a skyscraper.
The freighter pulls the ooze into itself
as if on board was a capacious mouth – a needy child
sucking sweet cola drink through a giant straw
to slake its outsized, insatiable thirst.
Like crystals of sugar, ice and gas conspire –
sealing off the escape to the surface above.
Stapler-shaped, the white submarine
descends to the desert of the ocean floor –
a ravaged seascape of dead crabs and worms;
now wintry – lifeless as the far surface of the moon.
Gathered in layers of leathery sediment
the crude obscures the sea floor’s sand grains;
all life smothered by a settling, death-bringing blanket.
Seen through a filter of ultraviolet light
the sludge is splashed with phosphorescent blots.
Slime smears the portals and instruments.
Still the oil spews with an alarm’s insistence –
each attempt to stem its flow crushed by sheer scale; pressure.
Clean-burning clouds duplicate those under water:
a horizon-length mirror held up to Man’s helplessness –
a surreal dual portrait of the tyranny of circumstance,
brush strokes splashed on a reflecting canvas.
Smoke swells, fire leaps to the sky from dark puddles
that gather on the gleaming skin of the ocean,
lassoed into place by floating boom circles.
Pools that belch into the stillness of air suggest
the incandescence of a submerged inferno.
Capped, the well slides back into repose.
Cement chokes the apertures, sealing each gash
to the salted vastness of the sea’s grey expanse.
Exposed, the slits gushed forth their burden;
at rest now the wound forms the crust of its scab.
The site assumes the air of a headstoneless grave
that no mourners will attend with prayers or flowers –
a monument not to lost souls, but cut corners.
The kill zone: a localised, circular extinction.
Lifelessness hangs over all within vision.
A fisherman stands knee deep in water
surveying a beach beneath a tangerine sunset.
Illumination’s ball sinks to pale mauve of evening.
A soundscape of washing foam and shrill bird calls
insistently penetrates the still figure’s consciousness.
A giant whale carcass blights the landscape’s
ebbing and picturesque stretch of rippled sand dunes.
From its hollowed eye socket a small crab emerges;
tentative – testing the air and dusky light.
A pelican skims the sea’s surface at takeoff,
while driftwood bobs indifferently in the shallows.