Alison Gaines / Brian D. Cohen
The evening begins with the rain
clearing its throat: I’m sorry, I waited
as long as I could. Retreating
from every windowsill and bicycle spoke,
the lizards shy under leaves.
The wasps pause their nest
construction, carry it to an unpeopled
place, still sorry for what happened
last week on the porch. The palmettos
have whacked enough faces on the road,
and now lean away from it.
In the house, there’s you,
adding today’s infractions—
bicycle knocked over,
sharp pencil dropped,
thing said too loud
or too soon—to yesterday’s,
another layer under which
you will not sleep.
They fish for weeks at sea, hardly moving
a wing, then stumble on land, risk breaking
a leg in touching down to the cliff. They lay
one pointy egg on the rocky, sinking island.
Coleridge hung on them the idea that they
must hang on us, a yoke, a new way to feel
sorry for ourselves. Eight feet in wingspan
but only a few pounds, one begins helpless,
a bundle of brown shag carpeting, left
for all those weeks of fishing. Then they fledge
and move from one era of solitude
to another, years before returning.
I envy those dark eyes and their long sight.
These birds are terrifying. They mate for life.
When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light …
W.S. Merwin, “For a Coming Extinction”
To be born at the surface
drinking 53% milkfat
Held up by mother
on her belly or back
in case of orcas
or something else with teeth
To migrate up and down a coast
one’s whole life
close to the surface
where light ripples ancient skin
To sleep there. To give birth
every two years or so
ending shallow and warm
To abstain from feeding
To feed by pushing along the floor
on one’s right side
making a cloud of sand
and spitting out the mud
How large, how slow
What to make
of the curve of the mouth
the expressionless eye
Ask their secret
They seem like creatures with secrets
They would probably tell us not to worry
not to feel bad
their medium being water, we think
not the future or last weekend
Alison Gaines studies poetry at the University of Florida. She is originally from Vancouver, Washington and has a BA from Knox College. She has attended the Sewanee Writers’ Conference as an MFA scholar, and written several textbooks for young readers. Her poems have appeared in Sweet Tree Review.
Brian D. Cohen is a printmaker, painter, writer, and educator. He founded Bridge Press, publisher of limited edition artist’s books and etchings, in 1989. Brian has exhibited in forty individual exhibitions and in over 200 group shows, and his work is held by private and public collections throughout the country.