Kelli Russell Agodon
On a day when weather stole every breeze,
Pablo told her he kept bits of his poems
tucked behind the band in his hat.
He opened the windows to nothing
but more heat, asked her to wander with him
down to the beach, see if their bodies
could become waves.
When they returned he placed his hat,
open to sky, in the center of the table.
She filled it with papaya, figs, searched
for scraps of poems beneath the lining.
By evening, the hat was empty
and his typewriter, full
with pages that began something about ocean,
something about fruit.
And they didn't notice the sky, full of tomorrow's
stars or the blue and white swallow
carrying paper in its beak.
They sat outside until the edge of daylight
stretched itself across a new band of morning,
the shadow of a hat washing onto the shore.
Of a Forgetful Sea
Sometimes, I forget the sun
sinking into ocean.
Desert is only a handful of sand
held by my daughter.
In her palm,
she holds small creatures,
tracks an ant, a flea
moving over each grain.
She brings them to places
she thinks are safe:
an island of driftwood,
the knot of a blackberry bush,
a continent of grass.
Fire ants carried on sticks,
potato bugs scooped
into the crease of a newspaper.
She tries to help them
before the patterns of tides
reach their lives.
She knows about families
who fold together like hands,
a horizon of tanks moving forward.
Here war is only newsprint.
How easy it is not to think about it
as we sleep beneath our quiet sky,
slip ourselves into foam, neglectful
waves appearing endless.
Love Song to My Neighborhoods
Sometimes I stroll through forests
just sprayed for the gypsy moths. I throw a rock
into the bushes to distract the hunters. Deer
me. I am writing to my hazards.
Open gutter to the lake, green oil, paint dumped—
I swam there, cut my foot on a beer bottle
and kept paddling
to years by the power plant, my bed
placed so I could see the voltage through my window,
an evening sparked from metal towers. I was pulsing
beneath an uncharged moon. Still am.
Let me introduce you to the nuclear
sub base, the girl next door. At night, missiles leave
their home on trains, protesters appear on tracks
a day too late. Afternoons, I buzz to the hum
of the generator. I know your lecture in my radioactive
sing organic, vegetarian bliss. But I can afford
to live here. I am a poor it.
Open my wallet and find. . . Moths?
Coins radiating? A small hazmat team? Let’s dream
big together. Turn off the lights. Watch my lungs glow.
I know you’d pay to see them.
Copyright © 2005 Kelli Russell Agodon
A Mermaid Questions God
As a girl, she hated the grain of anything
on her fins. Now she is part fire ant, part centipede.
Where dunes stretch into pathways, arteries appear.
Her blood pressure is temperature plus wind speed.
Where religion is a thousand miles of coastline,
she is familiar with moon size, with tide changes.
She wears the cream of waves like a vestment,
knows undertow is imaginary, not something to pray to.
Now her questions involve fairytales, begin
in a garden and lead to hands painted on a chapel's ceiling.
She wants to hold the ribbon grass, the shadow of angels
across the shore. She steals a Bible from the Seashore Inn;
she will trust it only if it floats.