Mermaid image for Mote Aquarium poem

Reading: Poem, May 1, Mote Aquarium, Sarasota

Poem experiment: write it, read it, publish it. At the Mote Aquarium, May 1. Unrhymed. One of those poems that started out as a throat-clearing exercise, but ended with me connecting some dots about larger things that have been on my mind.

I took the day off and went to the Mote Aquarium to write and think. This one came out more or less clean. I recorded it at the aquarium right after I wrote it; I’ve never recorded myself reading anything before. The background noise is kind of intrusive, but it’s also what I was hearing as I wrote.

May 1, Mote Aquarium, Sarasota

the heat is heavy, a blanket
and you want but don’t want
to kick it off–you’re covered in sweat–
the kind that appears out of nowhere
and rolls down the sides of your belly
darkening the sheets

echoes, reversing; the shimmer of voices
fishtanks hum; a fan tries to stir the breeze

palm leaves, fronds like stained-glass windows
a slither of air, a cloud so ripe
you want to pop it in your mouth–it will
taste like banana taffy, if you do.

birds in the rafters, flags in the breeze;
bubbles rising. you took
a million photos of jellyfish, trying to capture
the finest details, but cameras
are not quite like eyes and are trickier to coax
to see clearly in the near-dark.

words float up. i hear them but don’t think them
i release this hat, these hairties, these shoes.
if it were night i would lay it all down
and whatever came back is what you would see:
the moon, the water, the white
beaches; the mermaids, the tide, the solitary cloud
silver, silver–
                          the cool wind blowing wet dark hair across my cheek.

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