Dolphins At Cochin

By Tom Buchan

They crashed among the spider-nets
spluttering and breathing hoarsely,
chasing fish out of the water,
calling one another and disappearing.

Lime-green bellies and smiling mouths
sliced upwards obliquely;
calm humorous eyes regarded us for a moment
and splashed back.

Sea-marks of dolphins
moved among the dozens of jockeying sails:
a mile out, in the breaking waves,
we could see the flash of more dolphins.

On the bridge of our tanker
the grey paint blistered in the heat; above us
the siren mooed to come in at the jetty:
the water green and translucent.

The smell of crude oil, of ginger
drying in the yards; piles of coloured fish;
the creak of a wooden capstan,
monkeys quarrelling on top of the parked cars.

And suddenly there was a dolphin
inside our slow bow-wave: revolving, amused,
not realising our incomprehension
of his vivid thoughts.

Two dolphins came skidding round the point,
screeched to a standstill
blowing vapour and circling each other;
then they raced on again, leaping.

We watched them helplessly
from our primitive element
able only to think up cold metaphors
or to anthropomorphize.

But they wheeled – dolphins!
their liquid backs, their arched fins
moving steadily out from the shore
towards the hilarious ocean.

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