does not dare venture this far,
and yet there is colour – the abyssal
palette; midnight blues, brilliant reds and
silvery grays bejewel the barren marine face
of mother Earth herself. Pores of
sulphur burst from the floor and crustaceans
cluster about, clutching at minerals
ground from the Earth’s raw core; fiery,
poisonous, only fit for these creatures,
the last reaches of life, who are almost sludge,
but not quite, who live for eons but never know
how quickly time at the surface can go.
Inches away from the sun, it seems,
reef-dwellers revel in flamboyant tomfoolery;
with shapes and patterns of impracticality,
they are aesthetically pleasing, indeed, but
each species lives individually, removed
from the realities more courageous fish face;
swimming solo for days and starving for weeks,
until an appropriate deep water feast
drifts down from shallower seas.
For them, seeing brightness is revelatory.
Struck by a bolt of Zeus’ own lightning
and caught with eyes open – blinding.
Things never before concerns
suddenly rear their head and
to receive answers;
most curious among them, the flat, long
silhouette of the crab on spindly legs,
mirroring its movements, attached all the
time to where exoskeleton meets ground,
only found with the help of a flashlight.
Having no name for the sensation, there is
not fear, but wonderment, that this beam
would cut through gloom, only to be stopped
by the animal’s slim frame, to be blocked
from total illumination. And this… ‘shadow’
follows wherever it goes, a permanent
friend among endless marine snow.
Does the anglerfish ever turn on her light
simply to marvel at the bead of brightness?
To cast it before her and project
shadows on the walls? Does her guard ever fall;
missing a fish swim in to her maw because
she is watching not it, but its ghoul,
the negative space in her light pool?
Jagged, oily backs of fishes and the tentacles
of octopi, are only distinguished from
endless black by a neon blue or greenish hue;
smouldering liquid fire, effervescent pearls
of colour, whirling about in swell.
Light, up to this point,
has been a camouflage or lure,
a burning of curiosity where waters
rest so coolly, but now it is an art display.
waves macabre arms
in delicate ballet, and gelatinous bodies
illuminate in a natural x-ray.
If sunlight was not meant to penetrate
these depths, to reveal the angles on the
face of fishes sifting through the waste,
why construct them so ornately?
Why inject colour in to their hides and scales?
Perhaps it is a comfort to these fish to believe
that what impales them in final moments
is not a predatory being, is simply the clutches of darkness,
or perhaps flecks of light, beckoning them
into a further endless night.
The deep ocean really fascinates me and I wrote this poem because of watching documentaries like
. It occurred to me that the organisms at two miles down, in an ocean without any light at all, would never have encountered their own shadow. But then a research crew comes along, shining lights everywhere, and it probably cause a lot of fish to have existential crises.
Any feedback on this poem would be much appreciated. I'd especially like feedback on its readability. The deep ocean is smooth, but extremely intricate, and I tried to express that feeling in the poem, but I fear some lines are too long and don't sit well on the tongue... I think it still needs some reworking... Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it!
*This poem has been published in Teen Art Out Magazine, issue no. 31