A young humpback whale, motherless, drifts and wallows in the bay nuzzling a buoy. ‘Heartbreaking,’ the fishermen said. When it dies they tow it to the beach. It measures six metres, the bloated tongue lolling from the gaping beak, blowholes blocked with sand, sloughed skin shredded like burst rubber tyres, the long flipper piebald like the body and the vulnerable penis. A small dog sniffs and pisses against its bulk. White sea-lice infest the furrows of the ventricle pleats. A man says you’d catch all sorts if you touched it.

      That night I don’t sleep, listen for the mother blaring. At low tide chainsaws and the beam of headlamps. Nothing left at first light but caterpillar tracks and an umber stain on the white sand.

      There are other smaller deaths: the beach littered with empty shells of Maja squinado – spider crab, some whole, spiked carapace up, others with skinny legs relaxed, like red dogs waiting to have their bellies scratched.

                                                                                                                Porthkidney Sands 2011


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