Necropastoral for the Carribbean Ocean

We’ll put out to sea
And we’ll perfect our chemistry
By and by we’ll defy
a little bit of gravity
—The Beach Boys, Kokomo

To bare our skin
and enter into congress

with salt and water’s air
we bob indulgently

in emerald seas.
Emergencies demur,

even those fossils
that make the porous land

agree to form and beach
and scatter into sand.

We forge our mountains
and the rivers reel.

So stark the driftwood’s
flesh-pale skin

gets polished in the wind,
so too our raging stones

and claw-sharp shells
are rolled and rolled

until they are so many
and distilled they lie

in layers, crests, accrued
tectonic plates.

We root between their layers
for shale’s percussive burn

and boom, the bust
a black thought shuttled off.

Having left the ocean
the land retains our residue.

Others fall away and then return.
Today a prayer is made

of waves and crumbling cellophane,
the softened bits that blend into the sand:

green, blue, white, ecru.
This detritus, once ours, erupts,

our lineaments and trinkets,
everything we ever had

a thorny gift for birds and fish,
the mangrove’s salty mass.

So place inside
each bottle

a greeting for the plovers,
snails and kelp.

To send a word
with everything

we send away
is to pull

tomorrow’s string
and see millennia flare.

Our things outlive us:
form and chemical,

each valence
potent as a fuse.

Let need dry up
to counterbalance use.

*

Mary Austin Speaker is the author of Ceremony, winner of the 2012 Slope Editions book prize; The Bridge (Push Press 2011); 20 Love Poems for 10 Months (Ugly Duckling Presse 2012); and a collaborative play, written with her husband, poet Chris Martin. New poems have appeared in Boston Review, Jubilat, Forklift Ohio, and elsewhere, and her critical work can be found in Pleiades and Painted Bride Quarterly. She lives in Minneapolis, where she designs books for HarperCollins, Milkweed Editions, The Song Cave and others. She will teach at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference this June.

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