In the family photo, the three of us are standing
on beach chairs dragged way out into the surf,
looking at the waves, not at the camera. This
must have been the summer we found the book
of deep sea creatures no one knew existed
until they washed ashore dead, and we were afraid
of everything unknown and known, monsters, crabs,
the stingrays with those barbs that are so hard
to remove. These days, our grandmother cries
for everyone she ever lost, as if they all died
yesterday. I can only imagine this kind of grief
and I do. I’m still in the part of my life
before the loss I won’t get over. And when
will it be. And who. And look at us. An island chain
of sisters above frill sharks, bristlemouths, the black
swallower, the gulper eel with its impossible jaw.
Once I set fire
to a scrap of paper,
dropped it in a glass
milk bottle, and
plugged the mouth
with a peeled egg.
When the air was spent
the bottle became
a vacuum. Then
by the pressure,
the egg’s ashen belly
fell. The bottle
gasped. I am not strong.
I am not strong, not
permanent, just holding.
Incantation for If and When I Lose Him
He makes a good
I make a good ocean,
good tugboat leading him
far enough from the shore,
good explosive fixed in rows
below the waterline of his hull.
This series of hollow booms
is our last slow dance—
when I have flooded
all his rooms, the empty bunks,
the engine stripped of its wires,
let his portholes fill
and fall like plunder,
let him stay where I sink him,
let the fish come, let the coral
turn this wreck and tender
into something new.