The deck is dazzle, fish-stink, gauze-covered buckets.
Gelatinous ingots, rainbows of wet flinching amethyst
and flubbed, iridescent cream. All this
means he’s better; and working on a haul of lumpen light.
Polyps, plankton, jellyfish. Sea butterflies, the pteropods.
‘So low in the scale of nature, exquisite in their forms!
You wonder at so much beauty – created,
apparently, for such little purpose!’ They lower his creel
to blue pores of subtropical ocean. Wave-flicker, white
as a gun-flash over the blown heart of sapphire.
Peacock eyes, beaten and swollen,
tossing on lazuline steel.
This was written by Ruth Padel, a descendant of Charles Darwin. In commemoration of Darwin's bicentennial and the sequential of the Origin of Species, she has produced a book of poetry inspired by his writings - Darwin a life in poems. Here is what she has to say about this poem in particular:
"This marks the moment when Charles Darwin began actually to enjoy the Beagle, rather than lying seasick on the captain’s sofa. It is January 1832, he is 22, heading south through the north Atlantic, and starting work as a naturalist. The key ideas come in obliquely: Darwin still believes in biblical creation, yet his own language is readying him to doubt it (apparently). The rhymes often see-saw between the inside and the end of lines (ocean/swollen). The lyric description is inextricable from the imagery. A translator pointed out to me that I often use double images, an image for an image (those rainbows and amethysts). I like mixing tones and registers, complex sensuous imagery, vernacular and direct speech."