For Nada, Toni and Rana
We lazed on ottomans above the azure
Under blue pallor, gazing
Into the gauze that makes discreet
The meeting of the sea’s cracked plate
And the sky’s bowl, blurring
Their embrace, my hostess, risen
In the doorway in her billowing dress
Sea-goddess green and barred with sky, feeling
A memory resurface:
“One day last year the water was not
Like this, but smooth and whole, a sheet
Of sapphire over the sea’s round mouth
Stilling its gasp, muffling its stilled sighs—
The sea was flat that day, and mute, and out
Of its depths the plastic swelled and rose
To bobble like balloons and balls along
The beachless shore for miles and miles.”
The diver whose faded t-shirt told us
“Sharks love people” told us
Sea cucumbers have learned to do just that—
Inflate themselves and rise to where the light is.
“Masters of escape,” he said, and laughed.
They also pile up in the pens like ladders
Rolling off at the top to liberty
Leaving their lower rungs behind.
It must be hard on everyone below
Amid the sludge and trash, hard for the sea cukes—
Legless, armless, brainless, boneless, soft—
Hard for inanimate garbage, harder still
For oxygen, and sharks, and hard
For the diver who goes way down there
To empathize, holding his breath, aware.
Mary Baine Campbell
Mary Baine Campbell is a poet and scholar of early modern travel writing, science and utopia. Her books include The World, the Flesh, and Angels; Trouble; The Witness and the Other World; and Wonder and Science. She is currently writing a book on early modern dreams and a new collection of poems. She will be Kennedy Professor of Renaissance Studies at Smith College this autumn (2019), and is a member at Brandeis University of the Mandel Seminar on Climate Change.