Sadness is a Skeleton / In The Museum Cafe

as often I sit here just below
the yellow bones not floating but held
suspended half-disappeared
into brick wall and air

Long Finned Pilot Whale
‘may have been shot’

in front of me around me
all the fishy fast foods
the smell envelopes the space

Scamperdown Beaked Whale
‘stranded on the Younghusband
Peninsula, Coorong, 1931’

fate makes its bones
to become almost immortal
things become part of other things
ground compost trophy
something remade on a beach

Sperm Whale. Adult female
‘stranded alive, April 1990, after having
been entangled in a long line’

as if reality
was singing again through the water
making poems in the deep

Pygmy Sperm Whale
‘may have been hit by a boat’

a pattern now stranded
above the words that try to
explain all this away

Common Dolphin
‘stranded at Brighton, 1936’

the bones of their pectoral fins
open out towards me
like hands mammal to mammal

Jill Jones


The texts on the right-hand side are exhibition labels for a group of cetacean skeletons hanging in the South Australian Museum. One text-label has been shortened, all others are as they appeared in the museum exhibit as of November 2018.

Jill Jones has published eleven full-length books of poetry, including The Beautiful Anxiety (Puncher & Wattmann 2014) which won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry in 2015 and Breaking the Days (Whitmore Press 2015), which won the 2014 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize and was shortlisted for the 2017 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize.

© 2019