We thought we could fathom the vastness of the sea
from an island’s shallow lap:
we would watch the ships fade from sight and agree that nothing
could survive the fall past the edge of the world.
We did not see how, deep beyond the continental margins, submarine
canyons channeled secret rivers onto underwater plains, or how
the abyssal fish slowly went blind, their unseen lights
speckling the endlessly cavernous dark.
In our sleep we hear
the seabed groan with the weight of all its shipwrecks,
lift its hem, and settle into a hot embrace
around the mantle, the sulfide pools simmering through its cracks
where it presses close to the magma light.
Here I chance upon the sparkling clasp of a coral reef necklace
tracing an invisible line from one atoll to the next.
Following it I leapfrog dashed borders, beginning
to contrive an idea of you
from the contours of these countless coasts.
The geological record says we are five centimetres closer
every year. In geologic time—perhaps,
if you were a reef and I, an archipelago—we’d meet
at a faultline in the next eon and crumble together, leaving
a new continent where we were before.
Today, we stand knee deep in the shoals, losing ships
to the horizon between us. Salt sifts
between our toes.
When you laugh, it almost feels
like those ten million years have already passed.
Their genealogies are manifold: there is no record of where
they were sewn, or sutured, as with a wound.
Dismember their home as they may, they eat from
the same tarnished pot, the same boiled grain and though
they may spit and rinse the taste from their mouths afterwards
they return to the pot, and it reminds them that they share their seed.
I do not think they severed their own roots
merely lost them in transplant: trees and rivers
do not bear the names of raindrops that fed them.
They are afraid to admit
that when they open their mouths to speak, they hear
their siblings’ voices. And this is not a theft but a becoming
as grasses become each other, as rains become each other
seeping into foreign soil and calling it their own.
Meeting you the first time was like
burrowing fingers into fragrant soil after rain
to find earthworms, curled up like springs and summers
in the notches in the feet of trees.
And in some vernal ways too it was like
the sun glowing through green cocoons above
the swing, revealing maps of veins
and corpses melting to nectar
soon to be stitched and unfolded as butterflies.
But passion like all flowers greys too soon and when
we began shrivelling into gnarly things we started
to understand that you were a rhyme short of a childhood
and I was the tattered rind left by the calling birds
when they’d finished the fruit.
I cannot put a name to it—love, or regret—
which, like the twining branches, become a little more
indistinguishable with every turn of the light
as their boundaries knit into each other’s
It leaves but a crumbling aftertaste—
or a wish for one—
of a vestige of sunlight in this winter ache
and of earth-dwelling creatures
entombed in frost before
We first heard the humming of the cosmic
microwave background when we hung
satellites in our ionosphere and recorded
by accident the conspirational whisper
of radiowave noise
–a love letter
from the faraway galaxies that we
exalted in our flickering screens, like
schoolchildren pledging romance–
that radiometric anomaly
is the sigh of a lover finally acknowledged
silence is white
as smoke exhaled
or the whisper of shadows
the orchestrated nothing
of smooth mossy stones
between empty skyscrapers
it is as if
a dandelion of voices
felt the breath of giants
in the blue of void
into the canyons
through certain lenses,
the perfect isotropy of the universe suggests
that if you kept very
you might hear
of a rain drop
in the thundercrash of a collapsing star.
You are the universes’ dark eyes
expressing themselves in flesh and fire.
Is it not plain to see
you are the many-armed goddess
you scream to be?
Galaxies threaded on your fingers—
crepe-mobile worlds papering
the ceiling of your existential expanse—
You are all that
and all that
between your cranial stars.