Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images
Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images

BooksMay 13, 2022

The Friday Poem: Iron throne, submerged, by Mikaela Nyman

Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images
Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images

A new poem by poet and novelist Mikaela Nyman.

Iron throne, submerged

This ship is of a curious kind, missing

its midriff

see how it chops the waves eats

chunks of seabed

sucks and dumps

like the waves at Back Beach and Fitzroy

past that shifty bar where Virginia got concussed

a wonder it even stays afloat


Who does the sand belong to anyway?

Trans-Tasman Resources had their eye

on extraction of vanadium-rich iron ore

off the coast of South Taranaki

50 million tonnes of sand per year

a bay hollowed out, the Supreme Court

said no, echoing locals and iwi


On average a tonne of sand equals 0.625 cubic metres

or 625 litres

on account of the iron’s heaviness it’s probably a bit less

50 million tonnes is an 11-digit number of litres –

hard to even imagine


Vanadium is used for treating diabetes, high

cholesterol, low

blood sugar, heart disease, tuberculosis, syphilis

takes care of tired blood

and water retention, can also be used to improve

athletic performance and prevent cancer


You’ll find vanadium in space vehicles, nuclear reactors

air craft carriers, pistons and axels, as girders

in construction

potterers use it as pigment


Wet-skinned we flap angels on the hot sand hold

salty grains in our mouths let trace

elements seep into limbs, skin, blood, tongues


It was aeons since we took a trip of any kind

sand trips all the time

calculating all the inner dimensions of a truck you end up

with a trip of sand or 450 cubic feet

so many feet in one single truck


Just look at the current cost of building materials in Nigeria:

Sharp sand (20 tonnes) a trip           ₦60,000

Soft sand (20 tonnes) a trip               ₦90,000

Laterite filling (20 tonnes) a trip      ₦48,000


Next time you’re held at ransom, why not

bargain for sand dollars.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed and will open again very soon.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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