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Poetry: In Which the Serpent Goddess of Industrial Waste Destroys Perth

By Smoko Henderson


Twas upon a winter’s night though warm with sickly timing,
Not far beyond the spot from where two spent swimmers fell before,
Blowholes flowing blackened saps crude in need refining.
Though opulence and crafted meals may truthfully be a bore,
Yet but peak design and shining gold there’s less to say of buildings,
Grand and timely structures for these men not of Gods but for them
Different from old chosen ones but by blood in old halls lauded.
The culmination of these things was that time had come to see
The end of nightly peace declining
And while pipes to Swan and Cockburn Sound did slime and resin drizzle,
From deep beneath the riverbed deep came a sound like steel hands mining
All around things gan to shake and shiver, leaves began to fall,
A bubble, a hiss, a burp from the Swan, and tar spat from the water,
And as the river rose all around to consume retaining walls,
The water took on solid shape, as if had turned to rock, and
From the mouth of that lake came a second, one aligned with crystal teeth so pure but yet black with rot.
First a mighty rearing amphibian crest gan to rise tall from the murk,
Til water ceased to lap at a skin but lap up against a piercing eye,
Gelatinous and unstung by salt but tarred with oily flecks like rust on rye.
She, the serpent, with dashing coloured scales of whole pearlescent wheel,
Took form from the pools of water as from which she rose, and
From simply lifting her great head did trees upon the shoreline
Twist round like drills and leap from soil, their roots left air to feel.
As her neck rose higher still the water gan to cease,
Retreating back unto its middle, exposing miles of algae reef.
Was the God of riverbed so large and hard to count,
That only from the peakest hills of the ranges could her all be seen.

When the serpent came to rest her chin upon the land,
Those large houses by the shore were swallowed by quicksand
Formed with force and violent wrath betwix crust and girth of beast,
So dense was she that earth and rock were but clay underneath.
When she moved some short space forward all land once more began to crease,
And twas not long til one would find a fjord beyond their street.
As water from the Swan pooled in to follow her travel on side, it
Somehow adding to her being as through the land they knive.
Having now been so long dreaming, waiting neath the liquid,
Her ribcage not of form here seen but in the earth all still for later recollection,
Sinew, tissue, bone and grit merged with stone, oil, clay and silt,
Finally manifest once more, a thing seen once but then no more since times the earth had rid.
Cast once again of ground and stone and stranger things but more a second potion –
Every toxic cloud and drop and caustic thing that’s leaked into the ocean.
It was not earthly clay but resin and tars which hid her mighty lurking,
Inch by inch and scale by scale in wastewaters for discharging.
And suddenly the earth round Perth again was in a primordial stage of forming,
As this great snake trashed and lurched throughout the land and left all townships mourning.
To those up high and far away enough to see and tremble,
It was clear to all that the beast this time had no good nor peace assembled,
The same beast who once long ago had created all with love and wisdom,
Now slowly gasped and writhed to death in the throes of hate,
enough for one against a kingdom.

And it was as such that so in her final move of breath,
(while Elizabeth Quay was burning,) she took a leap and suddenly
Skyward bound her body was now in all immensity hurtling.
Her mighty tail now coiled around sprung underneath the land,
Began running out like anchored rope til all was spent ascending,
Her tail stabbed the gorgebed and with her head nibbling the clouds,
The last breath came from the serpents lungs and overcast her vision darkly nature saw it to that she had thrown a shroud,
And with that blackened sight across her eyes the serpent started falling, back towards the poisoned place which for her return was calling.
All around there came a loud and soothing watered sound,
As her ancient corpse came to violent rest upon the suburbs like the ancient jarrah tree, which falls on twigs and plants beneath which are trapped and can’t be freed.
Incased in wooden coffin log for centuries lest disturbed,
Smoothened by the waterbed which now blanketed the land as far as eye could see.
And trapped it was now everything til it became a fossil rock, or over time so weathered down that only memories could a chisel stock.
And so it was across the land that became encased in time forever,
And in clouds of rubble and asbestos dust the crust of earth again once shook,
Having just betaken force of the beast now apt befelled,
Half her being toppling the ocean, the other half the coast,
In doing so changing maps and flooding out the most of those who lived and held their breaths as water gan to swallow crops of wheat.

Over days all gan to quiet,
And her mossy flesh now expired,
Had only left remaining strange bones of rib and spine and tail,
Each segment too great in mass for any relatable scale,
And as the snake had landed still once on her back now dead,
Her open ribcage faced the sun, the bones all still remaining,
Themselves so tall that the horizon left only their sight remaining.
Where the bankwest building once had steely stood,
Now was left all bare and barren, but for her remains,
A collosal hallway made of towering, leering spires,
Themselves comprised of baked mud and crude cements,
Deposits of trash metals and poisons, mercuries and leads,
And any other things that made her bones upon which the curse was fed.
Where once her organs were now all was wood,
Gnarly knots of solid rope thorned and bleeding oils unstopped.
Any brick or unturned stone which standing still remained,
Had since become a thing of vines and weeds upon which to retain, and pus out their vile fluids, effluents of engine acids, the blood to hellish veins.
But unlike times of old when her serpent’s grace had calmly calved the ocean, now all was dead and salted too,
and decomposing fish freckled land from Mandurah to Rottnest.
Frying in the sun were we now just like the landed blowfish,
All the water having gone when the beast’s descent had come the touch of earth to know this.
But from pools of pesticide we’ll rise once more of flesh and stone,
And in her image we’ll anew the earth agape with sodden bones.