At dawn when the black nets billowed and stirred
under the swell of the bay, the great white pointer,
idling up from the south, bloated with seals,
ran foul of the long web. Full grown before Cook was born,
centuries ago he’d drifted quiet as cloud
among the oiled lubras gathering crays.
He might have brushed Bligh’s keel off Bruny Island
or shadowed Bass and Flinders on their voyage.
When they hauled him in, a surfie borrowed a ute
and fairly flew up the road to the nearest phone.
The meat-works said they’d send a freezer-truck.
Before he got back to the quay he was making millions,
exhibiting city by city across the mainland
the biggest, oldest shark in world history.
But someone with other ideas had taken a chain-saw
and cut off the head. Two fishermen, shoulder to shoulder,
padding in blood, smiled out through the gaping jaws
in a frame of teeth. The photograph made
the front page in most of the dailies. It’s still
in the bar of the pub where visitors stand
looking south to a fading expanse
of buttermilk ocean, blue as a blind eye.
Beyond the mist that veils the distant pole
the waters are hid as with stone and
the face of the deep is frozen. A sail,
a blown white leaf, hangs in the blue like an emblem
and the hills lie all around, chin upon hand.
© Margaret Scott