He thought, once, to own nakedness
like a roofless house,
like Venus of Creosote’s ascension
where sea-lettuce hangs from bow lines,
limp laundry pinned up by a domestic tide.
But he never owned the lines on his palm,
or fire, or blackberries staining a paper sack,
weight on his chest of his infant son,
light echoed on the wavering bay.
What do you own: senseless persistence,
like that porchlamp dirtying dawn?
The salt in this air, that flowered deck umbrella,
open as Paris, shedding sky?
When I own dawn I will rescind
the law that wild things must vanish
now, must relinquish the red canoe
on the beach of stone plums,
barnacles held up as shyly
as the young bride lifted her wedding ring,
yellow constellations sparkling
along strings, the grass a field
of lost boys. Rough joists
of an empty dance floor.
In ancient times, it was ourselves
we flung like pennies at the monarch’s feet.
Here salmon, spilled as rubies
into concrete raceways, slap
this scummed-to-silence five-a-m salt finger.
A gliding gull slits clouds,
becomes the gaunt shoulder-blades
of his farmgirl,
carried the wrong way
across the threshold, finally,
after years of bedpans, constellations
of indignities and loss you cannot
as flecks of rain
kissing the scum-acned bay,
the reflection of a red canoe beating
like a heart as the tide pulses in—
and all of it, he owns,
because he woke
in the animal hours
and is here,
with his eyes.
Jacqueline Haskins is a biologist of watery wilds, from cypress swamps to cirque swales. She has received a Pushcart nomination and been a finalist in Oregon Quarterly’s Northwest Perspectives Contest. Her work appears in The Iowa Review,River Teeth Journal, Raven Chronicles, and elsewhere. Stop by and say hello at JacquelineHaskins.com.