Spangling the Sea
Ruffle and tuck, river fabric wags doggedly towards ocean,
Heaping surface on surface, its cadence a gown.
Perpetually beneath lurks stillness, a calm inseam sewn
By handless needles, distinct from yet part of the sequined
Design that glints iridescent now, then dark as pine.
Between silt and waver live many denizens of the deep:
Zigzagging shiners, freshwater drums, tessellated darters,
Grass carp, a kaleidoscopic plenitude that yaws and rolls
Among root wads and bubble curtains drawn on riparian
Terraces, hinged vertebrae whipping back and forth
In an elastic continuum displacing the fluid milieu,
Enabling them, polarized or not, to scull along in schools.
Nothing in outer space so bizarre as episodes underwater:
The gilled emerge from bouts of massive oviparity
Staged upon plankton columns where some fry turn larval
While the majority never leave the sure rot of egg sleep.
Whether due to snowmelt in mountainous headwater tracts
Or to rainfall from cumulonimbus fancy, for whatever reason
Water appears from serpentine soil and prairie-scrub mosaic,
A small muddy trickle that gains momentum as it swells
And deepens, sweeping along twigs, carcasses, bald tires,
To empty at length into estuaries engulfed by tides
Perpetually born of a body dressed in hastening garb,
Upholstering two-thirds more surface than any ground.
Spangling the Sea first appeared in The Paris Review, No. 169, Spring 2004.