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‘Waste’ – World Animal Day Poem 2016

Susan Richardson is World Animal Day’s poet-in-residence and in this specially-commissioned poem for World Animal Day 2016, she turns her attention to the critical global issue of ocean debris and the injuries/deaths suffered by marine creatures, including leatherback turtles, when they become entangled in discarded fishing nets (known as ‘ghost gear’) or ingest plastic rubbish that they mistake for prey.

The turtle image was created by visual artist Pat Gregory, with whom Susan has previously collaborated on several published collections of poetry and art. At the bottom of the page you can click on the link to hear Susan reciting ‘Waste’. 


1. Net           

The Ghost of Fishing Past has failed

                  to fade.

It will haunt degradable dreams

for decade after leathery decade.


The Ghost of Fishing Present

is not the one doing the moaning.

What you hear is the sound

of a thousand gouged flippers.

Mangled skin. Tangled necks.

Flexible shells yelling for protection.


The Ghost of Fishing Yet to Come

nets every ocean current and tide.

Entire gyres are trapped.

Waves     writhe    and     thrash

as the sea sinks

                       to the bottom of itself.

2. Bag

Her prey migrates

from chip shop

and Tesco

from High Street

and suburb from

windgust and

gutter from

fly-tip and

river from

storm drain

and foreshore

from shallows

and deeps

till it reaches

the pelagic zone,

her home

in the open sea.

As it floats

past, she grabs

it, drags it

down her

barbed throat,

adds it to

a gut already

stuffed with




near to

the surface,

genuine jellyfish

themselves ingest

plastic plankton.   

You can also listen to Susan reciting her wonderful poem: https://soundcloud.com/susan-richardson-419784770/waste
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