Quarry

Floating dock and the sun
and a lady with her infant
and a black dog swimming with a branch
and a boy I loved all silken
and mocking me
from his heavy lashes
surprised with bright drops of water.
He was kind but he had this weakness.
We swam together every day
as the water found new patterns
around our bodies. Dog, infant, lady, sun, dock
orbited as they always had.
And nothing would stop growing.

 

Quarry

That absence filled with water, and we swam:
kept to the surface, above rusted beams
and weeds and car or body parts, above
sequins of glass, or rutted signs, or cans
crushed to bright coins, or hypodermics.
The water covering that rich debris
was clear and pure and cold and so were we,
diving, careening, all body, all gasps
of bubbled air. Cast off on clefts of rock:
our clothes, and school, and family. Too soon
behind the quarry wall, hauling away
the day’s last heat, the sun ducked, mosquitoes
clamored for sweet new blood. Leaving, we’d drag
our feet. But we were lighter for the floating.

 

Little fugue

i. Vertigo

I captained a ship
its name was confusion
gullsong accompanied it
on the quivering seas
I sowed seeds of evergreen
laurel, wild thyme
they took root in the whitecaps
they took root in the brine
I steered through this forest
I steered by the stars
which were eyes fixed on stalks
of a plant I didn’t know

ii. Low

I cast my faith out on the waters
I sank into the brine
all the fishes swam to me
their o-mouths like rings
marrying me
to their kingdom
and then I knew
cure has so many forms
the key is merely
to stay alive

 

we have grown nautical

you left a souvenir
on my thigh
it had a mussel’s shape
and the cast
of the water’s
weedy greens
you made a fool of me
I made you queen
of this underwater
forest I gave you pearls
and lanternfish
you gave me a black eye
you said I’d thank you for
later now
it’s later and
the water’s dark and still
and still there’s so much
teeming
such cold blood
tentacle and fin

Melissa Stein

MELISSA STEINis the author of the poetry collections Terrible blooms (Copper Canyon Press, 2018) and Rough Honey, winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She is a freelance editor in San Francisco.

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