for Wendell

Algae pushes north 
and further north. 
The plankton follows, 
and with it, a biome

of multifarious
sea creatures: microbes, 
mollusks. Charismatic 
megafauna. All of them

now breed at higher latitude, 
which means the things
that bred at that higher latitude 
now breed elsewhere

and elsewhere
eat. I linger at the end, 
the edge of it. I tread 
the precipice

of the abyss. It is Friday,
early, and my son
is newly born. In the dark
he coos and grunts. The slowing

stream of morning
news murmurs in his ear. 
It cradles him
in a sound, like some

object of history. 
Outside, berry brambles 
glisten in an almost 
absent wind, here

and there starting up
to toss pollen from a node. 
The starlings, always 
starlings, tighten

like fists along a strand
of telephone wire.
My son, he’s sucking
on my finger. He’s looking

up at me with two bulbous 
slate gray eyes that hardly 
let me scrawl these words. 
I think of the beluga

whale stitched on his shirt, the fishy 
taste of the milk it feeds
its own young, born in warmer 
waters, which push them

toward the pole. Here, sun
pummels the windows
and the exposed planks of the house, 
summons tiny seedlings

from the mud. It desiccates 
the herbs left hanging
on the porch. My son 
writhes in my arm, a single

muscle almost, slacking
and contracting as he throws 
another wail. The end, it’s moving 
toward us. His future’s set

in an unreadable script. 
Through glass
I watch starlings shuffle 
and drift, displace

grubworms from the dirt.
My neighbor shaves
a bristlecone pine toppled
in the morning heat. He drops

the limbs in piles
and soaks the wood in flame. 
Somewhere in the distance 
plankton colonies dissolve.

Whales go with them. 
The oak trees
burn in Spain. My son 
rolls his eyes over curtains

and patterned sheets, gazes 
at the azure
light of the TV. At his lips, 
a milky bubble. He moves

his tiny head. He dozes
to the changeless whir
of the machine, gogging, I presume, 
at its slow and secret ministry.

Copyright © 2023 by John James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.