Dirge for the ocean

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By Leo Murray

Recorded by Karina Lutz

Ancestral dream in physical form
bearing their ancient clay, this body of bone and blood
Spirit matter soaring around a searing sun
tidal saline brine, timeless animal rhythm
the beating heart of us-ness, grounded in people and place
vast textured experience eight thousand generations deep
interwoven nuanced voluminous, maybe some ways richer
Sang and wept and kept alive a story for every star

Did they dream of me wailing?
kneeling at the edge of a dying ocean
black gunk, my beloved
stenching foaming chunks of fossilized sunlight
diffused by the present day,
the penguins and petrels on Pāpāmoa beach
didn’t make it to the ceremony that summer
hey at least the All Blacks won the World Cup

Did they dream of danger? Of initiation and risk?
I saw slithers of canvas in the howling rig
trees who gifted their multilayered lives to human desires
I held my breath, with eyes open
as the Ika Roa plunged into thick green water
heaving, surging, quivering, gasping
rasping cold, holding on to hope in gales of grey
endless unrelenting movement around, across and away

I would rather my skin be torn open by the razor teeth of sharks
than be killed in a war for money or greed or power
engulf me in the raw visceral experience of breathlessness
before exposing me to another air conditioned shopping mall
give me death by moray eel, by the flick of a whales tail,
by poisonous barb, by lightning strike at the top of the mast
I would trust that awe inspiring horrifying sacred holy sacrifice
before any ‘humane’ death under sterile lights or beeping machines

I would drown in the ocean and drown again in the rivers running beneath it
only to drown again in the lowest trench and sink into the centre of the Earth
when the Southern cross is obscured by a billion false lights
I would set my sails for the cyclone of bewilderment, be whipped with cold salt air
starving, shivering, chapped and cracked and bleeding
lost for days and weeks and months and never seeing the sun or moon or stars
Then I surrender. Not knowing. Not abdicating. Accepting.
In that beingness I hear my tupuna speak; to live is to trust the act of death

Western waka sails blind in a sea of self obsession
rivalrous dynamics compounded by exponential tech
tragedy of the commons, race to the bottom.
skippered by narcissism, powered by polarity
I prefer a fair bloody fight to all this sneaking around
give me the immediacy of nature a thousand times over
crack this thick shellac of numbness, silence the anxious drone
awaken my ability to sense, to feel, to belong

To the frenzied explosions of kahawai, trevalli, mackerel and snapper at the surface
To the thriving whales and dolphins, kingfish and sharks underneath
To the limitless gulls above, cormorants and diving shags
To the octopus and the stingray, the seals, the crays and the phytoplankton
To the ocean floor forests, to the rocks, the coral and the sands
I pledge my head, my heart and my hands
To live as you do, a part of, not apart from the oceans
the skies, the mountains, the rivers and the lands

[Pāpāmoa: location in Aotearoa NZ, tupuna: ancestors, waka: vessel]

Recorded by Karina Lutz

With nature as his teacher, Leo Murray plays an active role as an interdisciplinary changemaker and thought leader in Aotearoa New Zealand. He’s grateful to have felt the breadth and depth of human emotions, and tries his best to learn from them all.

Officially working as a ‘beyond’ sustainability consultant for Why Waste, Leo’s other roles can be described as vibe architect, permaculture designer, systems design thinker, NVDA activist, storyteller and ocean voyager.
Work That Reconnects profile: https://workthatreconnects.org/user/leo-mufasa-murray/

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