Poets for Science
Global Gallery

A keening   


Before my lungs blew open their pink dresses. Taunt,
rippling with a laplace wind, all this body has known—
There was darkness, someone told me once,
then stars.

Legend and religion caterwaul in their light. And atoms?
Smaller cousins of pinprick suns, those far off giants.
They tumble erratic, as a child’s bouncy-balls. Still, somehow

that first bond of hydrogen to helium; nitrogen to oxygen. My god,
that molecules make so many bodies. That molecules break us down.

And these rubber lungs at work. Slick, pumping muscles.
Jellyfish curled in my ribcage.

What I want to say is all salt and stars. Is that I was not in awe of angels, but whales. Warm, how we breathe the same air. No one ever talks about the angels’ brains, nervous systems. Only that unattainable holy light, what cannot be held.

When whales sleep, one hemisphere of their brain remains awake, vigilant of the surface. This imaginary line that is real.

What everyday miracle, that it’s possible to know breath as measurement, as distance. To not fear that space but live inside it.

All this to say, scientists put five dolphins under anesthesia
and assumed they slept and breathe as we sleep and breathe
but they do not. They suffocated. And we learned.

Surface: line between life and death. Glint
where this sun catches between worlds
breaks strange glass. Wavering,
lesser-known galaxy. Legend.

What of that boundary between sea and horizon?
My lungs know this exchange. I listen.

Few words for the umbra of a whale’s exhale,
its misty brine rising, that it becomes seafret, will settle
as dewy stardust in villagers’ hair. In gulls arrow-like quills.

Surface: Crumbled wave and rolled foam,
blurred realm. Air, water, salt.
Oxygen and silicon, magnesium and iron.
Legend and religion, caterwaul.

Everything a simple balance of neutrons and protons and probably
something finer than sea-lace. An incurable allure,
this wanting to know, to make.

Somehow we came to be here, our omniscient eyes
and needle in hand. We are gods, we are god.
We crave this world. The taste of water.
The smell of salt.