New Poem – iSimangaliso Night (1/20/19)

iSimangaliso Night (1/20/19)

The full moon hangs spectral
in African air chilled by Antarctic exegesis
whipping waves that bring
the leatherback mother
to a lonely stretch of titanium sand
a ritual of night
to call forth a new generation
we will bear witness

Salt air and fresh rain
the murmur of our voices
carried to the canopy
home of shadowed leopards
they will not appear
in the detente of land and sea
this is her moment
and only hers
a species in the balance
she will try to tip the scales
towards existence

I stand distant
read poetry to the Indian
Ocean rushes over my feet
soothing my soul
teasing my senses
this endless expanse
indifferent and wild
tonight protects me
everywhere an opalescent minefield
man-o-war and ghost crab claws
but not here
I am lucky
in so many ways

meandering back home
waiting on the deep
to lift her up
carry her back
the clouds above unbroken
constant like her
if there would be music
you would hear it triumphant and regal
this ancient mariner
she will become one with the currents
to be carried back around
one day
one year
until the end

In the dunes
I see two men stand vigil
at the shore
looking for absolution
for us all
in the vast dark rolling fields of water
I ask the Ocean to protect the mother
her hidden children
all of us
let it hear our prayers
and hope
for more iSimangaliso nights
and new days that stretch on
like these lonely titanium sands



On January 20, 2019, I was lucky enough to witness a female leatherback sea turtle (considered critically endangered in the Southwest Indian Ocean) come ashore, build a nest, lay a clutch of eggs, and then return to the sea.  This was at the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, a joint effort between South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland to preserve a natural frontier.  It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, and has its genesis in the mind of Nelson Mandela. When he came to power after the end of Apartheid, he saw what the British and later Apartheid government of South Africa had done to the area,  and saw an opportunity to heal the land, and create a sustainable economy for this region.
It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever had the privilege to witness (and you can too through a the “Turtle Tour Safari” – click the link to learn more).

“iSimangaliso” is a Zulu word for “miracle” or “something wondrous”, which I did not know until after I started the draft of the poem.  I was merely speaking literally in the title of the poem.  When I looked up the word later – well, it added another meaning which while also literal (in my mind) added the second meaning.

This poem is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Archie Carr, who once asked me to do great things for sea turtles.   I hope this poem is part of that.

Learn what you can do to help sea turtles by checking out the Sea Turtle Conservancy (the world’s oldest sea turtle conservation group), or through CREMA (a group that protects sea turtles in Costa Rica and is affiliated with my friends at Fins Attached), or the hometown heroes in Juno Beach, FL, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

I hope you enjoyed it!

One Reply to “New Poem – iSimangaliso Night (1/20/19)”

  1. Bernard, Of all the wonderful poems written by you and that I have read, I believe this is the most beautiful one. Congratulations!! Keep up the good work. I am really proud of you. Your father

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