I can’t sleep,
So I think about the penguin tank.
Beneath the aquatics centre at Colchester zoo,
In the eery underground light
The fiberglass rocks are shining.
When I touch them they are always moist:
the breath of a thousand visitors on my palm.
Cheek against the chilled glass, I peer into cloudy water.
set in glistening gellotine
and grimacing at me
with their sideways grins as they rise and fall,
like carousel horses,
inhaling on the breath between each fall up
Smooth liquorice bodies,
chasing silver fish heads.
Bits of flesh fall slowly,
trailing ribbons of white and red absurdly caught
in the caverns of blue between the real world
and the sea-bed, swept smooth like a shell.
Penguin bellies squeak against it as they dive.
Do they believe,
as their black beaks toss gutted faces in suspended cartwheels,
That through the upward fall of bloodied intestines
They might suddenly find grey sand?
and buried beneath it, colder sand?
And bones, and shells, and earth, and the silent memories?
How can they sleep in this little blue world
where there is not enough room
for a whale to swim freely?
I linger with a silent splash
on the darkness at the bottom of their descent.
Soft corpses falling like confetti and
I might find among the dead
the clean spikes of whale bones.
Sleep comes in a thought, like the last bubble of air.