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2020 Free Verse



Where Once She Danced
Anne Casey

Northbridge, NSW

A Lament for the Great Barrier Reef

Beyond the sleepy dapplings of the mangroves,
trailing lazy limbs into the drowsing waves,
across the turquoise crests of placid currents.
that lap up to the gently sloping shore,

out past the breakers idly frothing,
beneath the rolling drifts of whitecap spray,
once I saw her dance, her head encircled brightly
in blooming rubicund and blazing saffron stars.

Tresses dressed with every hue were budding,
ribbons streaming emerald and vivid sapphire-blue,
peacock-feathered tendrils trailed behind her,
a giant clam gasped deep and wide with awe.

Humpback whale came to slowly drift above her;
their voices joined the wind to sing her praise.
Seals paused to frolic in her swirlings;
a maori wrasse gliding past took his fill.

And later as the evening stretched and lingered,
slow to let the day slip to the sea,
the sun came slanting through that glassy window
to spread a crimson blanket for her sleep.

Leaping with first light came the dugongs
and dolphins circling idly by her side,
dragon-fish nimbly flitting through her fingers,
Neptune’s Cup Sponge brushing past her toes

as clownfish coaxed a path around her shoulders
where her braids were twined with amber
and with rose; turtles grazed on grassy rolling
borders, porcupine ray rippling in the flats.

Ribboned pipefish nibbled at the treats she offered,
mantis shrimp and krill came picking at the crumbs
in her garden suffuse with every colour,
bottlebrush bordered staghorn, skirting ferns.

But storms came to dash her radiant features,
her gorgeous tresses have all turned white with woe;
her feathered boas are falling all around her,
blossoms fading from magenta, fuschia, gold.

Angelfish in anguish bow their heads down,
swimming hard against a swiftly rising tide;
she is drowning in a sea awash with cobalt,
deadly metals fill the channels where she breathes.

Her lovely limbs are shackled down with plastics,
her lungs are laced with deadly manganese—
a crown of thorns to pierce her pretty head,
a bed of sludge to lull her in her dreams.

Her cherished creatures perish all around her
in the clutch of slowly simmering seas,
where once beyond the dapplings of the mangroves,
beneath the drowsing waves and turquoise crests

way out past the breakers idly frothing,
I saw her dance, her head encircled brightly
in blooming rubicund and blazing saffron stars—
tresses dressed with every hue there budding,

ribbons streaming emerald and vivid sapphire-blue.



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