The deep evening-colored rose of the sea
is closing. Sweet crude oil, orange as rust,
finds an open pathway into the marsh.
And what you thought would be your home,
lush with grasses, is no home, drives you out into the gray-glazed
gates of sleep. Blood flowers
where we don’t see it. And every chance event
is a high note racing from stars in sea depths of brightness,
and every shock we feel we feel only with the slack
ropes of our arms. Someone
wants to hide the body of oil and cannot.
Someone wants to hide their hands from shame.
Dolphin, shark, manatee, fish,
each slick skin an undreamt tine threading its red
flute-dusk through fumes.
Sound of the flood-dark pulse.
Then the second when the water makes no sound.
The old vandals were floods and boats
eroding the banks. The islands that once dotted the bays
have sunk, disappearing into silverish grit, thinned
into algae and filament now being made
quiet by plumes. Despite ourselves
we are made quiet. The death of the sea
a thing we must lower ourselves into
to imagine. I will stay with you here
inside the sheen of orange that quickly kills,
not like the saltwater slowly starving the freshwater-
marshes and grasses that knit this green-wet
world together. The two breathless gannets
found covered in oil are not unlike you,
at the mercy of a mercy that moves in plumes,
that insists certain fates remain
invisible. What existed before the oil arrived
was delicate and mired, a broom of moonlight
swept through half-choked waves. I trust you
if you wish for what it, too, might have been.
This poem originally ran in the November 3, 2011, issue of the magazine.