Stephanie Green

Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize Winner

30 September 2023

Extract from the winning collection

Inside the Whale Museum

(Húsavík, Iceland)

A cavernous space, glaucous light,

and I’m walking on the ocean floor

while shadowy cetaceans float above.

A moan reverberates through the museum,

white dashes shoot in bursts

across a black cymatic screen:

musical notes defined by the surrounding

silence of the ocean; a song

which can be heard from Portugal to Iceland,

now drowned, scrambled by engines

of container ships, tankers and ferries.

Here in the museum I follow the moan

to a film of you, a hunchback with your calf.

Ringed with wrinkles, the light in your eye

is the pure, clean flame of oil.

I climb up wooden stairs to a platform

level with a vast skeleton. I never knew

that hidden inside each flipper are finger-joints.

I remember we are cousins,

as now outstretched towards me

you hold out your hand.