Sea Garden

Dead man’s fingers—
short and still
or waving spindles
brain coral,
mountain coral
ground small—they
would be pebbles
if they weren’t shards
hiding places
for trumpet
fish and crabs
live and dead coral
What is sand made of?
Who is to know
which is coral
and which
is bone
From the surface you
can see dark
patches where sea grass
and spirit hair grow


Copyright © 2017 by Rosamond S. King. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“When I heard that dead man’s fingers is the name of a type of coral, it seemed appropriate, since so many people perished in the ocean during the Transatlantic slave trade. ‘Sea Garden’ suggests that if you dive into the ocean, you will see beautiful and scary natural objects—some living, and some remnants of the dead.”
—Rosamond S. King