somewhere in this maelstrom, a poem for #IamScience

Feb 03 2012 Published by under poetry

the island

In those hours before sunrise,
while the water is still new, my father
and I walk down to the pilings

to dip our lines in the murky Severn.
We would bait our hooks with grass shrimp
from the corner store, or dangle old meat

from a string, to lure out the crabs,
who would scuttle across that weathered dock,
then vanish between missing planks.

My family noticed how poor
my catch was, how few fish would take the shrimp,
but they never noticed the hooks,

unbaited, lying by the tackle box,
a lead weight hanging from my line.

The sodium twilight of the city,
so far from my mud-soaked river,
did not leave shells for hermit crabs to tend.

I built my burrow in bottles
Of sand and pressed seaweed, finding wildness
Wherever wilderness survived.

In small fragments of forest pushing out
through the concrete, winding trails where
old copper mines once stood, broken

railway bridges, long abandoned, birdsongs
that cut through the light rail’s rumble.
The tide would rise and fall on these islands,

Adrift in a sea without stars.
But those islands were my anchor. It held.

the tank

They hover, motionless in the water.
Each one, a tiny, perfect, mystery,
So seemingly unfit for survival.
Weightless and delicate, syngnathidae.

Together, in their loves’ embrace,
the males bear the burden of birth.
Unspoken edicts, assumed truths,
are theirs to abide or ignore.

As they should, for a fish
that flaunts its unfishness
shamelessly, with grasping
tails and forsaken scales.

These were my tanks
to feed, to clean,
my steeds, my charge,
my damp command.

Each day,
a wave,
further
from shore.

the rock

And now,
I am falling.
A cord
vibrating through
the emptiness,

I am the weight
at the end of my line.

I feel it,
the tension
of a rope, going taught.
Momentum
transferred from my body

to a bolt
buried among the stones.

it pops,
the last link
between myself
and the earth,
until

the ground
reaches up
to call me home,

as if she never
wanted me to leave.

the ship

Here is a man at sea,
        struggling to find his way
                across a gulf
                        wider
                                than imagined

                                The gear rises
                        lowers
                and settles.
        But, as the winch tightens,
a wave catches. The stern

swings.
                                        Out and down.
              Out and down.

the corer takes him in the chest,
        throws him across the deck,
                and comes to rest
                        inches
                                above crushed bones.

                                The mud is gold
                        and he
                barely perceives
        the cracked ribs, shattered spine,
a question that will never stand.

                    He lifts her, carries her
                        dulling the pain
with whiskey, willpower
      false promises
to himself.

Until, at last,
the earth again
rises up to meet him.
And, with welcoming arms,

he greets the fall,
like an old friend.

the island

She never questioned my scars,
the old twisted knots from forgotten climbs
or the fresh welts, still pallid,
yesterday’s bruises.

We scurry across the beach
sifting sand as we duck between the rocks.
Two among the multitude,
shedding our injuries,
in discarded shells.

She is so wide and deep and unyielding
that even the strongest of us must fall
to our knees before the oncoming tide
and then cling to the rocks as she recedes.

But, somewhere in this maelstrom, an island
emerges from the surf.

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