Aral Sea

by Sylvia Goodman

All that remains is salt.
An evil snow
coats the scrub
bludgeons silent ships
rusting naked
against an endless
seabed sky.
The stinging wind howls
through factory carcasses
raining dust of salt
and toxic sand.
Camels escape a merciless sun
relax on cracked clay
collapse on seashells.

Bemused, an old man
scans the horizon
seeking the vanished sea
repairs his nets
ready for phantom fish.
Sickly children clamber
on crusted hulks
in a ship cemetery.
Cradled babies cough
on salted milk.
Mothers grown stoical
bury another child.

Judge's Comments - Peter Wyton