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Ocean Wanderer

This poem emerged after I had seen a documentary programme about Macquarie Island, an Australian but sub-Antarctic dot-on-the-map in the Southern Ocean, south of New Zealand. Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' seemed a suitable matrix on which to build it.



Ocean Wanderer


The big bird spreads its vast black wings

over high-flown, tufted, blustering clifftops,

takes a waddling, flapping run-up, flings

its great bright body forward, and downward drops -

a cruciform parabola, askew through scrambled spume:

done with land, it sails the first uproaring draft

beyond the föetid, reproductive island shore, a flume

allows the whistling ocean wind to craft

'tween heaving rollers a final glance

at the rocky prize of its solitary two year sea-dance.


The ocean's wanderer, gone into billowing maelstrom, is secure

in nature's arms; no pale soul plays the dice of death,

only solitude under scudding wrack confirms the lure

of Coleridge's romantic guise. The albatross conserves its breath

for the hunt, then rests in the seaway's rolling arms; seeks

no companion, succour, favour from the roiling crash

of thundering breaksea rollers. Thus exiled, the windrift sailor ekes

its life on fickle chance, in spiteful rainstorm lash

till, white with age, the grizzled warrior scans the far horizon line,

no more to test the gale, nor grasp unwary fishes through the brine.


For now it seeks a ship for scraps, to trail her stern as did

the ancient albatross in the poet's tale; fain

would it lead her crew from an icy Antarctic grave, and bid

them well, and perhaps a Mariner's cross-bow bolt for its pain.

But my eyes see an albatross incline with grace and whip

over oil-calm ocean deeps, a sight exultant beyond measure

as it dips a millimetrically precise jet wing-tip,

scratching its name on the sea, for its pleasure.


My ship may fetch still upon a painted ocean,

yet will I be cradled in the idle rhythms of its motion.


Christopher Hubbard

Perth, 2016

◄ A Book of Hours

Aeschylus Unbound ►


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Hazel ettridge

Mon 16th Jan 2017 10:48

Precise use of language. Packed with fresh images. Great leaps of the imagination. Invitation to really see this bird. Wonderful!

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