Against Gregariousness

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Facing the wind, the hovering stormy petrels
Tap-dance on the water.
They pluck the tuna hatchlings
As Pavlova, had she been in a tearing hurry,
Might once have picked up pearls
From a broken necklace.

Yellowfin drive the turbine of sardines
Up near the surface so the diving shearwaters
Can fly down through the bubbles and get at them.
Birds from above and big fish from below
Rip at the pack until it comes apart
Like Poland, with survivors in single figures.

The krill, as singletons almost not there
But en masse like a cloud of diamond dust
Against the sunlit flood of their ballroom ceiling,
Are scooped up by the basking shark’s dragline
Or sucked in through the whale’s drapes of baleen—
A galaxy absorbed into a boudoir
And nullified, a deep-space mass extinction
Watched only by the Hubble telescope.

Make your bones in a shark family if you can.
If not, be tricky to locate for sheer
Translucence, a slick blip that will become—
Beyond the daisycutter beaks and jaws—
A lobster fortified with jutting eaves
Of glazed tile, like the castle at Nagoya
Hoisted around by jacks and cranes, an awkward
Mouthful like a crushed car. That being done,
Crawl backwards down a hole and don’t come out.

Clive James

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin