I'd lean close, my ear
to her whisper and roar,
her tongue scattered
with stars.
 
She'd belt her brassy voice
over the waves' backbeat.
No one sings better than her.
 
Would she ever bite
the inside of her cheek?
 
Would she yell at the moon
to quit tugging at her hem,
or would she whistle, drop
her blue dress and shimmy
through space to cleave
to that shimmer?
 
What did she mean to say
that morning she spit out
the emaciated whale
wearing a net for a corset?
 
All this emptying
on the sand. Eyeless
shrimp. Oiled pelicans.
 
Within her jaws the coral forests,
glittering fish, waves like teeth,
her hungry mortal brine.

Copyright © 2014 by Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 26, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,
but I assure you we were.

We still had the night sky back then,
and like our ancestors, we admired
its illuminated doodles
of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.

Absolutely, there were some forests left!
Absolutely, we still had some lakes!

I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.
There were bees back then, and they pollinated
a euphoria of flowers so we might
contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,
“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”   

And then all the bees were dead.

Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.