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  • Intertidal
  • Judith Barrington (bio), Annie Finch (bio), Julie Kane (bio), Julia Lisella (bio), D'Arcy Randall (bio), Kathrine Varnes (bio), and Lesley Wheeler (bio)

Seven poets wrote the following sonnet crown in a correspondence over email that lasted several months. As we discussed publication, we decided that to identify who wrote which portion would counter the collaborative nature of our project (although an enterprising reader might eventually work this out by comparing the crown to our separate collections). Therefore,we list our names in alphabetical order, whereas our sonnets appear in the order in which we wrote the first drafts.


Repeat her words as if you're memorizing-baby squid and by the tentaclesyou said, and down my gullet-and it lullsa person into thinking you're not sizingher up anymore, the silence of apprizingover. We stashed our pirate's monocleswhen the waitress whisked away our Hungry Seagullsmenus and the pale fog started rising [End Page 116]

like a veil without a wedding gown.Then the golfers broke out in laughter and darkness fell.Invitations followed-I couldn't keep track-to play, to sing in a band, to get out of town.I clutched my purse and determined to love you wellso sure was I you'd want to have me back.


So sure I was you'd want to have me backI practiced shining through the intertidaltwilight: eyespots, zebra stripes, empty saddle.My suckers strained to kiss, my ten arms slackand cold as the silt plain of my bivouac,my three hearts wild with yes and weep and puzzle.An ardent cephalopod unfolds her mantleonto the rustling currents.

                           The small waves smackthe great rocks and shiver apart. The starsbeneath are dreaming of the upper glareand this is the silver film, the glass that thinksto part them. A human swimmer strokes her arspoetica along the rim, unawareshe drifts within a mist of anxious ink.


She drifts within a mist of anxious inkbeneath the surface of the Ch'ien T'ang River.In "stop-short" form, with shaking brush, she'd scribbledfour last lines because her fate was jinxed."Who'd hold a lute and then rip off its strings?"The brothel patrons, with their sweat and slobber;the cruel first wife who made a captive of her;all suitors since the boy who traded linked [End Page 117]

quatrains with her, in scholar's blue. She floatsas limp as duckweed till the fishing neta Buddhist nun had stretched from bank to bankto catch her, spills her in a cypress boatto breathe the air again, to pay back debt.This time, her name's not listed with the damned.


This time, her name's not listed with the damnedbut inscribed, once again, in the Book of Life.Lifted by scummy swells, she sinks into troughs,the seabed below her littered ad nauseamwith barrels, beer cans, and plastic bottles jammedinto reefs. Turtles and lionfish lurk under roofsof steel from sunken freighters and all the stuffthrown out by human convicts on the lam.

Like a salt-treader, she lives on the open seamaking amends to the gods of sargassum and salt.Sometimes I wonder: Doesn't she long for dry landand when she returns, who will she turn out to be?Hair of weedy green, gaze of cobalt:Will we remember her name or merely pretend?


Remember her? Be still. Or just pretendyou still can keep her name inside your headwhen you know that your lot's cast with her dead-betraying clerics and saints who offend.Face it. She stuffed your heart in her locket-mouth.The air fell short, and then her phone calls stopped.You want to call, say, what? You're hurt and dropped?She knows. And holds that bit of you-your drought. [End Page 118]

You want her name to slip beyond your world,undo her lines, recall your stunning need,remind yourself you're good to those who've partedfrom you? Not friends for life, a mothered...


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pp. 116-120
Launched on MUSE
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