This is the time of year
when nearly every day
the strange, lethal red tides appear,
burning the Florida Bay,
spreading through the Keys
on currents that rise and ebb
Examined closely in the dark,
the ocean consists of tiny sparks.
A boat's split wake
reveals red stars.
Once the sea's aflame,
it's hard to detect a reason for the fire:
the minute and luminous animals,
the toxic Noctiluca. This morning
another red tide spread its pall
of scum across the mud flats
of the tidal zone,
staining soft creatures: sponges,
anemones. I found a fish, its bones
like needles clearly visible
through a layer of pink skin,
its mouth a lightless tunnel.
Blue shadows fell on its dorsal fin.
I wish I could see what Audubon saw
a century, more, ago:
this cove filled with flocks
of scarlet-winged flamingos.
Kathy Keler, "Double Moon"
see more of Kathy Keler's work
The month when the sky goes crazy at night.
Month of suicides, month of lies
when everything browns or spoils or dies:
the marsh grass, the corn crops,
an uncle on my father's side.
Caesar Augustus died in August
questioning his part in the farce of life.
On his chest, seven brown birthmarks
arranged like Ursa Major in the sky.
My ancestors were Menominee
tracking bear across the Great Plains.
They buried their children riverside
under banks brushed smooth
by weeping willow trees.
Tonight I rise from blue water.
My feet leave long, clawed splashes.
I think of my uncle's willows
unwinding their arms into the river.
I want an interview with the dead.
I want to know once and for all
if this is to be my inheritance:
this pool glowing secretly
like an uncut jewel,
these stars that have no names.
THE PLACES THAT WE LOVE
I turn the pages of your lean, precise life
populated with few creatures:
a wife, a bulldog, few hawks,
yourself an exacting, carved man squatting on a coast of bones.
If we become like the places that we love,
you, the craggy Pacific shoreline,
white wave, red rock, vertebrae, crab claw,
then I am a roseate spoonbill dipping her beak
in a pool of fresh water,
or a tropical sea and all its soft creatures,
lily, periwinkle, oyster, medusa.
We dug our cornplants out of the sand and lived on watermelon seeds. There was a lot that we ate that year, in the wintertime.
-- from the Hopi
When the clouds roar down the mountains
like a herd of frightened elk,
the arms of oil derricks will break.
These riggings our hands have spun
will brand our palms forever.
No fur-lined glove will hide the disgrace.
We will dig in the potato peelings
of our neighbor's trash
and find naked dolls,
even the last, white rocket
will plummet back to earth,
black scratches across the sky.
We will eat our children,
we will gnaw at the moon.
There will be no other world.
Linda Girardi is a poet, novelist, and environmental writer. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. Girardi's poetry has appeared in literary magazines and newspapers. Her environmental work includes journal articles, brochures, and curricula for children. She has been the recipient of the Larry Neal Award for Poetry and an Academy of American Poets prize. Girardi lives in Washington DC with her husband, the novelist Robert Girardi, and their two children. She is currently at work on a mystery novel set in Key West.
Published in Volume 1, Number 3, Summer 2000.