Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Thrown to Sea

Thrown to Sea

A leopard stalks the high slopes, at home
in a thin-sky world on the blue edge of night.
She pads over a landscape of fossils, old shells
and ancient plastic embedded in stone.
Her tail is a python, pursuing her through the snow,
telling lies and trying to throw her back to sea,
but she maintains her balance, always.
It’s what she does. The sea is just a legend.

The ocean spits out plastic, faded, thin,
but whole. The great-grandchildren
of those who threw it in retrieve the relics,
invent stories and religions for their ancestors,
singing their praises only to go home
and complain bitterly that they didn’t
leave behind something more useful
than just the cast off detritus of their lives.
Not even a boat to get off this rock.
They are prisoners. The sea is the law.

It’s an odd T-shaped island. Flying over
you can’t help but look for other letters,
an alphabet afloat on the Pacific blue,
but it’s just that lone T, and the people,
they are of the sea. They throw their best
plastic in and watch the waves swallow
all the evidence that they had lived.
This is their sacrifice and preparation.
The waves call them. The sea is Heaven.

This is something of a mash-up. I’m rereading David Mitchell’s brilliant Cloud Atlas. The opening takes place in the Chatham Islands. I know nothing about them, but I read the Wikipedia entry where Chatham is described as a “t-shaped island.” The snow leopard business and the description of his tail as python-like came from a National G article and many nights observing my own cat and wondering what he makes of the gray snake that follows him everywhere he goes. It must lie to him because sometimes it needs to be bitten.


  1. I like “It’s an odd T-shaped island” as the only explanatory sentence in the piece, kinda tossed out there casually like plastic into the ocean. It’s an odd poem, too, but in a good way – I didn’t know what you were talking about, but it didn’t matter. Then getting to the explanation of the island really sealed it for me. Me likey.

  2. Significantly more than a mash-up, I’d say, James. There’s a wonderful heaving and surging about this with a sense of tidal return at the end of each stanza. Your somewhat dystopic picture is all too plausible with its futuristic vision of plastic as having cargo-cult status!

    And isn’t ‘Cloud Atlas’ brilliant?

    • Thanks, Dick. Upon going back and rereading this, I think there’s a lot of influence from Cloud Atlas, particularly in terms of the structure.

  3. I’ve just recently (December) read Cloud Atlas and it is brilliant. In my top five al-time favorites.

    I think it’s more than a mash-up, too. The bits about plastic is terrific. Brings the spoils home, especially as relics embedded in the next layer.

    • Thanks, Deb. Cloud Atlas is among my top five too, I think. I read it a few years ago and it’s never been too far from my mind. This time I’m actually listening to the audio book version and then reading parts of it again that I especially like. The audio book is incredible. They found very good readers for each section.

  4. Don’t know if you would call this straight-up ecopoetry, but there’s definitely a curious relationship going on between nature and humanity… that ocean and its plastic, especially. I love what you’ve done with the sea, you’ve got whole mythological currents running through here.

Comments are closed.

© 2018 Coyote Mercury

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: