Click button above to play audio for this poem, or click here to download in .mp3 format.


            Haunt of salp
and red-shelled crab—here lives
                        the mouthless, sac-bodied

white finger tentacled to vents
                        and cold seeps, feeding

            on water
and sulfur and dark. Kingdom
                        of the lungless,

            the gill-raked,
the swim-bladdered: the eel-like

of whale falls; the “snot-flower” bone-eater,

Behold: the gulper, the swallower, all manner
                        of loosejaw,

            the wide-gaped,
blunt-snouted citizens of the deep—

hanging in the blackness, hinge-skulled

hermit crabs. Consider also the bulb-eyed
                        jewel squid,

umbrella under-studded with stars,
                        and the silver-

            scaled eye-ring
of the star-washed lanternfish, thin-finned,
                        dazzle-tailed firefly

            of the brine.
This is the province of the spike-eyed
                        and light-averse,

night-dwellers, breathers of cold and salt.
                        This is the empire

            of the armor-shelled
and carapaced, the saw-tooth clawed,
                        the tendril-danglers,

            the glowers, the snappers,
                        the mute.





Across the water
from the shipyard—
lights glittering
over the bodies
of nuclear submarines—
and not far
from the fishing pier
where the Lost Cause,
the Elizabeth-Kate,
and the Special K
are moored, you stand,
thin as a prospect, so still
I take you first for a sculptor’s
joke, your stoic beak forged
toward the distant hum
and bang
of industry.
We study the gray
feathered stick of you,
at first unfindable
with binoculars
some strangers lend us,
then unsteady in the lens.
My fingers brush the cold,
paint-chipped rail;
I wrap and unwrap
my ankle around the pole,
waiting for you to move,
waiting for the couple
with the binoculars
to stop watching,
wondering if you are
for real, and what is real
about the evening—
the glistening shipyard sparks
exploding in the distance,
the reeking nets, lobster traps
stacked high on the docks,
a rusted red truck perched
at the end of the pier,
and here, where the water
laps a tiny
pebble-gray shore,
your perfect plumage,
the bold show of it,
your awkward audience,
unsure how long to stand,
whether or not to wait for a sign
to break the calm and head back
toward the car, away
from the gleaming pink face
of the sky.




Abigail Carroll has published prose in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Huffington Post, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a variety of literary magazines, including Midwest Quarterly, Spiritus, Crab Orchard Review, River Oak Review, Ascent, and Ruminate. Her book Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal (Basic Books, 2013) was a finalist for the Zocalo Public Square Book Prize. She lives and writes in Vermont.

Heron silhouette photo by Yvonne Navalaney, courtesy Shutterstock.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One Response

  1. A Braden

    Wow! I love the Pattiann-Rogersequeness of the first poem, a powerful catalog.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons