His coral reefs

He is years from green and cool and what he knows.
The masts of the barque stand beyond the palms.
He is on the other side of the world.
The whale-boat creases the sands.
The bedrock slips beneath the incessant sea.
‘The little architects build up their great wall-like mass.’
The creeping shelf carries a march of standards.
It leans with great fans of Alcyonacea.
Huge white heat hovers above.
The teeming shoals slip below.
Plant breath catches in foam and surface.
The slow acid becomes Acropora.
The billioning polyps become rock.
He swings on a pole over its teeming pools.
The surf seethes behind him.
His clothes lie folded in the shade.
He slips unclothed into the shallows.
‘Nullipora is peach-coloured and branched.’
His skin gleams with wet and sun.
There are leaves of fish in the lurching sea.
They brush between his legs.
The undertow is sharp and cool.
His breath stops in his throat.
The polyps hum soundlessly.
‘Pocillopora has short sinuous lake-red plates.’
The wavelets drain the sand about his toes.
The salt dries on his skin.
He eats ripe tamarinds and ship’s biscuit.
He sits in a boat besides the captain.
Turbinaria reniformis gleams below the blue.
He holds his shoes above the wet planking.
He stretches line and lead into the sea.
He touches the bottom fathoms below.
He feels the slow contours of time.
The corals make him emisssary.
He writes crisply to the future.
There his sons and daughters swarm.
They build new reefs of words, figures, images.
They climb to the heavens and look back.
They chart the living and the bleaching and the death.
On the boat, Astraea calls from the tallowed lead.
Sand and tiny fragments and subtle hollows speak.
He grasps the whole from this tick in time.
He floats amidst the waves and sand.
The little architects swallow light, air and sea.
The reef swells beneath him.
His feet swivel on a myriad tiny hard-made stones.
He eats ripe tamarinds.
The stars slide behind the sky.
The air pushes thick about him.
He turns for home.

– quotations are from the works of Charles Darwin

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