Charles Darwin    aged 26   feels the crossover tides slip
under the cabin floor to the Southern Ocean
if only he`d stayed in Good Success Bay
not sailed west   set foot on land    he can`t sleep
in his journal he records swarms of butterflies blown out to sea
Ehrenberg`s paper on phosphorescence
speculates on extinct species   giant armadillos    capybaras
none of it can distract him

instead he sees their little ship like a map illustration
inching towards the Pacific
its sails caught in a storm straight off the mountain
lashed by the spinal tail of the Cordilleras
he speaks directly now into his journal    remembering
at the sea`s edge    those most miserable of creatures
a naked woman and her child    streaks of sleet
on her breast and the baby`s skin

what are they doing in his century?    Europe    America
slipping past him into some closed ravine
a thicket of gestures    painted grimaces
men   if they were men   asleep on wet leaves
here on this final land mass to be peopled
their future appears to him like their past    abject
a long steep-sided sound    from end to end swallowed by cloud
no improvement    no point in thought except to chip at limpets

from Out Of Deep Time Wayleave Press (2016)