Small beyond sight in tinajas, tide pools,
in the tangled octopus of mangrove root.
In clear sky over bluffs, through sooted air
their songs vanishing, threadbare.
They texture the dark with their fur
deepen the dark with their chatter and hum,
bring themselves, sorrowful, to shores,
smell of salt, tang and brine.
They baptize the bones of beloveds
with tears that outweigh ours.
Heads high, ears rotating dishes, they listen.
They sweeten the cloister, lock the doors
of the warren, close the petaled bowl
of the poppy. In slaughterhouses they’ve learned
that movement is merciless. Diurnal, rivered,
nocturnal, guided by stars or by rope, little scabs
of chafe, little clicks, little pelage, sleek swords
of calcium, sheathed in velvet. Blossom
of minnow, transparent skin, extravagant
jaw bone, translucent wing.
They wade, they waft, they burrow, they wait
stinger and claw, pupa, paddle and fin,
undulating rope of nerve, dusted scale,
tongues in temperate air. They sleep less
through warm winters, migrate off course,
traverse cities looking for a clean source
of water and food, escape from flames,
their bodies flung at our windows,
their beauty calling to our shame.
Stella Reed is the co-author of the Arizona-New Mexico Book Award winning, We Are Meant to Carry Water from 3: A Taos Press (2019). She is the 2018 winner of the Tusculum Review chapbook contest for Origami, and took third place in The Baltimore Review’s writing contest 2020. In pre-pandemic times, Stella taught poetry to women in domestic violence and homeless shelters through WingSpan Poetry Project in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You can find her work online and in print in The BellinghamReview, American Journal of Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review, Psaltery & Lyre, Blue Mountain Review, the tiny journal, and elsewhere. She is a Best of the Net nominee for 2020 and holds an MFA from New England College. Stella works for Audubon Southwest.
Header image by Yumee, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Stella Reed by Cindy McLeod.