On Waking to Find a Land-Fast Sea
The day before, we watched ice form—dendritic arms
tried to hold, then failed. Fragile fragments, their stretch
breaking on surface waves. Ice
needles through gray waves
stitching frozen length against length. Our teeth alien
in our mouths, the caustic sun burning eyes, the air full
of dry sound, and the great ship churning. And he was pointing—
explaining ice and frazils building on the edge
of pale, flat frames, rimming each white
lily of the grey sea. Waves and wind channeled
brine between the dead
blooms. Then, the seals, the terns rattling the sky with beaks
and wings and a great wall
white-calving into the sea.
Tropic of Cancer, March, and the two
of us in a flats boat. Night softly etching the bay—I dipped
my hand to savor the velvet wet and finger the plankton—
the water pale green.
Sharks, he said and pulled my hand away.
I could not see—I could
not see. I prayed to the Lady of Situations
and drowned Ophelia rising—
He talked conduction, convection, and cold
water drownings—the colder
the better for survival—and don’t
wear cotton. I went to the cabin for wool,
thinking there would be silence—
In the recess of the ship, I panted in the cold, wet air.