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.

The Octopus offers me one of his three hearts,

briar and holly for friendship the second and third

saved for times of longing, times of loss.

A strange romance, I admit—

Friends would never approve or believe,

yet he was untouched by human hands.

How can we say this is not a source of wonder—

“Who will sing my song, if not you?”  he asked.

“Who will dream of me, as I lay under the stillness of water?”

Even an Octopus can be eloquent, and then again,

as we know, enormous need can become power.

What am I supposed to do now?

I stand by the water,

my woolen dress unraveling in the waves.

From What the Psychic Said by Grace Cavalieri, published by Goss183. Copyright © 2020 by Grace Cavalieri.

What does it mean to be so still?
to glide along the ocean floor

like some black-tongued electric eel,
to burn through marbled gold and green

of oceanic things like some
compact mass deforming space, time,

a void within voids, and then?
It is easier to imagine amphibian,

to know that blood, too, can change
its temperament as quickly as

salamanders change skin, as quickly as
eyes of newt and tongues of dog become

incantations, enchantments of art
and life just as an animal submerged

under water becomes unknown,
just as respirations become primitive

and breaths and motions cease
as a lone fish in a dark pond

arrives as an object of thought
and becomes stone.

Copyright © 2017 by Rita Banerjee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

when the tide

of silence


say “ocean”

then with the paddle

of your tongue


the letters to form


Copyright © 2020 by Craig Santos Perez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 22, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

the beach at sunrise

raises its skirts

like a drunken pigeon


i raise my eyes awake

behind armored gates

somewhere deep in frederiksted

inside dark rooms

that shroud my skin

in the colors

of an evening gone bad


bluest black

rinsed indigo

uncensored red


dark nameless woman

washed ashore

skin seared

like an eclipse

out of season


warm water

nips under my


seeps into my skin


and the ocean whispers


stay close

stay close


i strut red feathers like a pagan god

open my house boldly

invite sun and waves to crush my wings

rape this serenity


bluest black

rinsed indigo

uncensored red


i surrender

to the messages in the sky

on the waves



i eat my own blood

reach quietly inside the water

gather all of me

alongside myself


and the ocean whispers


stay close

stay close


an earlier version

of sunrise

teases the curtains

teases the whiteness of sheets

that gather around my ankles

that remind my feet to breathe


an earlier version

of sunrise

sits cross-legged

holds thunder

captive under skirts


that deny

full moons

that deny

seasons  of fire

thy deny

births and names 


st croix mornings

gaze back at me

through the eyes

of my daughter

remind me

of other madnesses

other unnamed seeds


the madness of the sky

the madness of a woman

who refuses to


stay close

stay close

From Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Jaki Shelton Green. Used with the permission of the poet.

Walking backward from the sea,
scales shedding, you seek the cave. 

This is why the French door admits
only ocean. You stare into the louver

and forget how to get out. Lull
is the word, or loll. The sea returns,

completing your pulse, the waves live,
each breath of yours worship.

From So Much Things To Say: 100 Calabash Poets, edited by Colin Channer and Kwame Dawes. Copyright © 2010 by Terese Svoboda. Used with permission of Calabash International Literary Trust and the author.

Inside us the ocean
sways like a cradle
in which we rock     rock  

and are drawn like the tide
to the moon twice a day
we carry our water and it carries us

we are a good pail with legs
foot by foot on the turning
mountain of the world

water walking on the prairie
walking water on the road
up the stairs through a door

where the view rushes out of us
through the window to the woods
rushing water in the desert

rushing water in this chair
and that one you’re in
water walking

and what is solid is not at all
what we thought     the rock
worn away by the rocking

Copyright © 2016 by Wyatt Townley. From Rewriting the Body (Stephen F. Austin Press, 2018). Originally published in Prairie Schooner. Used with permission of the author.