Whale Fall

A whale dies. Bacteria in her gut eat their way out, now unhindered by a still immune system. Gasses build up, and she floats – up to the surface of the sea. Gulls and fish frenzy around her – ripping and gulping and tearing and swallowing – until she pops, and sinks. Down into the twilight, then the midnight, then the abyss. Here, there is no light, little food, an endless darkness to fall asleep in. She attracts octopi, hagfish, and crabs like starving men drawn to a banquet. They wriggle and scuttle into her, eating her down to bone and blubber. The worms come in, red and thread-y, anchoring themselves in her ribs and vertebrae. Generations live and die on her, until every last crumb is gone.

On the surface, gyres of brightly-colored plastic swirl themselves into tangles. Plastic bags, bottles, take-out containers. A kaleidoscope of bone-white forks, silver-shiny wrappers, pink flip-flops and blue bottle caps. Abandoned fishing nets drift like huge, unfeeling jellyfish, catching unfortunates in their lines. Under the water, the sunlight is choked out by an ever-churning mass of garbage slowly grinding itself into microplastics. And yet, on this undecaying corpse of styrofoam and plastic, some creatures scavenge a life for themselves. Anemones, barnacles, crabs – beachside rock-climbers from far-away coasts – huddle like castaways on milk bottles and used toothbrushes. Like a whale fall, the garbage patch gathers life seeking a foothold. Unlike one, it is inedible, eternal, and ever-growing.

Recycled fashion outfit designed for Meow Wolf Denver’s Ultimate Rubbish: A Trashion Show (2023)