Sea Country (Sophie Finlay)

wax and wane

deep in the trench
ancient reefs lie submerged —

their skeletons remember
when the cryosphere
stretched taut over continents

these drowned cities gleam
grey like marcasite — the dead jewels 
of coral and glaciation bound together


the sea ascends and bulges cliff
coral fruits in lobes, bursts
the water, alive with astronomy

spawn drifts to its pale lure
and with starry gametes 
entwines the moon

a shrimp revolves her eyes
and perceives a secret light
spiralling in the universe

then the polyps branch
in tree-structures and jellyfish
bloom from birthing tips


new shorelines break with acid
weakened shells, weakened bones

blind and splitting fingers
vanish — sparse mouths 
flower the shadowed boulders

the round eyes of bat-fish hover
dive deep for the pink, while
fields of staghorn wave alabaster

animals are ground to sand
float the turquoise gloom
and scatter light with their geology


’wax and wane’ — mixed media: aerial and underwater photography, charcoal on paper



mangroves knuckle
leaching yellow
salts into leaf 
sacrificed, a slit 

we float to delta
silted and swollen 
my daughter draws 
curls of sand 
river bays open 
to drawl of mud dunes

meadows of sea-grass
sway in dugong graze
sediment spills 

there coral clings
limey night tentacles 
farm a sea of stone
synapses with feathery trails

hear our breath
against scatter
of puckered hands 
flippers pumping 
algae splits light
sugar seeps from orbs


’Sea-country’ — mixed media: underwater photography, charcoal and pastel on paper



diadems spill with echoes
scars murmur to folded garden

algae is loosed
starblossoms brittle-white 
frilled with marrow
my lungs lilt and blow

antlers attune
cascade the skin reef
and roll from me, bodies piled to the cay

secrete tendrils, rain a deep rim
where I fall blackmarked
pallid — and emptied


‘Zooxanthellae’ — mixed media: underwater photography, pastel and charcoal on paper


Sophie Finlay is a visual artist and poet from Melbourne. Her poetry is published in multiple journals including Meanjin, Australian Poetry, Cordite Poetry Review, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Shaping the Fractured Self (UWAP). She has been a finalist in several art prizes including the prestigious John Leslie Art Prize.