eubalaena australis – hope is in fellowship

in shades of green and grey
the ocean spoke the coming storm
while breakers tossed ice-whisps
against the tide.

double socked and
braced to the wind
we face that cloud stacked horizon
and give thanks for the rain
the rain
the rain that comes
and those who return
with the snap cold turn
of seasons.

by 1750 the north atlantic right whale
was as good as extinct for commercial purposes –
because they were the right whale to kill.
slow and placid, rich in oil
likely to float after death.
they were the right whales to kill
until they were gone and
whalers looked to the rich southern waters
where generations of mothers
had returned and returned to quiet bays.

the southern right whales, it seems
were equally fit for purpose.
38 000 harpooned in the southern atlantic
39 000 in the south pacific
an incomplete record gathered
from far flung whaling stations
and the silence of the sea.

too late too late for the north
harpooning of right whales
was banned in 1937
though illegal whaling continued
for few decades more.

i never saw a whale as a child
never felt their breath in
and out like the ocean beneath me
until i was older
adult and sitting half way down
the rock strewn cliff
among the erica and watsonia
watching mother and child
roll and roll in the swell
of the deep water bay – close
close enough to see eyes
and spray catching light
with that vast exhale sigh
that rumbles rock and bone
and all the watery spaces
of my being – slow
slower than any breath i could dream
or hope or imagine

i never saw a whale as a child
because there were so few.
because they were the right whale.
because healing takes time.
because we did not know
how to hope
for their return.
what action hope needed
for their return

about 13000 southern right whales now
and counting. population growth steady
(we hope) at about 6% per year.

this is the slow crawl back from the brink –
the precarious tiptoeing at the edge of existence.
this is the quiet hope of winter
this is the prayer at the shore.

that despite it all
the changes and the changing
that the mothers return
as their mothers before,
full pregnant and nourished
by bright antarctic waters.
that they calve here
safe near the shore –
that our daughters
and daughters know
the wide waters
the rocky bays
the salt ocean breath.

photo by tamarisk-ray glogauer

For Brendan at earthweal’s weekly challenge: RADICAL HOPE



WhatsApp Image 2019-09-24 at 18.58.38

‘we are the daughters
of the witches
you did not burn’

the sons of slaves stolen
and traded like cattle
on cotton ships across the atlantic

we are the illegitimate children
of colonial bastards and the women
who were stolen from their homes and lived

we are the grandchildren
of the potato farmers
who did not starve.
we are descendants of jews
who were not killed

we are the children
of first people everywhere
who lived sideways and quiet
in a world over run with noise

our grandmother was the girl
running naked and burned
from the bombs
falling on her home

we are children of hutu and tutsi
we are the 10 000 of tieneman square
the trees that were felled
the elephant on whose dead bodies
our towns were built
we are the people our mountains still speak.

we are the songs
that were sung
in hope and sadness.
we are the babies stillborn
because the world was not ready,

we have come with claw
and beak and feet
to listen in the language of the world
we have come to say
enough is enough.
let us be what is needed.

we are the ones we have been waiting for.
we come in peace.


WhatsApp Image 2019-08-27 at 19.12.36

somewhere in the snow
a woman beats a drum,
lights a fire,
crouches low
to feed her gods –
says a prayer for us.
says you have to live
first –
be alive before you can
give yourself to the world

somewhere in the sea
a girl speaks quiet
on a boat atlantic rocked,
holds hope in small hands –
carries it continent to continent
with the rolling ocean
in her veins.
says her prayer for us
with the power of glaciers
crashing ancient stories
in the arctic seas.

somewhere in a field
a girl-woman turns
a disintegrating page
of bird books of ash
where her home once stood –
dances luminous,
her hair dry grass
to the rising sun –
casts her prayer
to a new world emerging
for all of us.

somewhere in siberia
women still beat their drums
light the fires
pray for us
to their well fed gods –