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Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Poem of the Month

January 2020

This month's poem arose from what we learned about the endangered shy albatross, during a boat trip off southern Tasmania a few years ago. It is a sombre topic which I have shared before, but as it was recently commended in the Fellowship of Australian Writers (Lambing Flat) Cherry Festival Open Poetry Award, I felt it deserved to be featured again.

Who Will Save the Albatross?
© Shelley Hansen 2012

The great shy albatross resides
in Southern Seas, beyond the tides.
Through ten long years of roaming, she
advances to maturity.

Then to an island's grassy ground
she comes, where on a nesting mound
by taking turns, she and her mate
a single egg will incubate.

They hatch a soft and downy chick
with parenting both deft and quick.
While one remains at home to brood
the other flies in search of food.

He sees a long-line fishing bait -
an easy catch. Alas! Too late!
He tries to struggle free in vain
till drowning blackens out the pain.

She waits upon the island shore
for him - who will return no more.
She senses she must now provide
for this young offspring at her side.

Impervious to danger's voice,
she knows she has no other choice
to soothe his shrill and hungry cries -
and so towards the sea she flies.

How could she see? How could she know?
A feral cat had watched her go.
The chick is torn from limb to limb
with no one there to rescue him.

At last, with fish she wends her way
to search for him beside the bay.
She sees, but cannot understand
a single feather on the sand.

And so to the eternal sea
she spreads her wings, once more to be
alone, where salt and wind erase
the memory of tragic days.

Will she return, perhaps to find
another partner of her kind -
instinctively impelled to mate,
to fill the need to procreate?

Or will "extinction" be a word
applied to this majestic bird?
As numbers dwindle, will we look
at lifeless pictures in a book?

Men fund campaigns to save the whales,
and of their slaughter tell the tales
to raise awareness of their loss.
But who will save the albatross?



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