I am co-editor (with David Graham) of After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography (Graywolf) and have published widely in journals and anthologies. Recently retired from Ripon College, I spend a lot of time reading drafts of poems to my husband and our two spaniels who are all very patient with me. If you love food and poetry, please check out Cooking With The Muse (Tupelo, 4/16) in which I have a little poem about cherry tomatoes; it is a stunning book of recipes, related literature, food culture & history, and photographs.
Between moon measured hours of ebb
and flood, in borrowed kayaks we put in
at the basin, launch our ritual last gasp
of seasonal spying. Rumors of thirty yesterday
morning, our pulses speeding, the sirens singing
The seals are coming, the seals are coming.
Perhaps we’ve been here forever, gone
current blind. Summer pioneers surrounded
by ocean, we risk capsizing for mercurial glimpses
of these saltwater yogis, voluntary breathers,
their Buddah heads broad as a bear's
to surface, consider, dive, and disappear
singly, in pairs, in threesomes or foursomes fleeting
as island hallucinations. Our backs cranky, hands
paddled raw as sashimi, minds soft from surviving
on white bread, peanut butter and jelly, we lose
track of land and time. Mirages navigate turn-
and counter-turn, backward and forward
motion. Fooled again by a flight of
cormorants air drying, all shag dialogue
and witchy wingspan, flotsam driftwood
hangout. Another fleet of bobbing black
lobster buoys. More blurred granite outcroppings.
Umber beds of seaweed. Cascades of tangled
netting. If we had their vibrating whiskers
instead of binoculars, we could sniff their
temporary retreat before the falls reverse
direction and the basin begins to empty. Lookout!
Terns dive bombing. Osprey air strikes. Even
a great blue heron lopes into action, eyeing
the signs from a distant fir. The herring
must be running. Baitfish. Crabs. Lunch.
At slack tide, sleek as monks, the shiny
fur slide awakens on the big rock. Over there.
Two o'clock. We hear each seal exhale
back into the atmosphere enough excess
air to fill a sail. Oxygen stored deep in their
blood, we feel our own human heart rates
dissipate with theirs from 120 to 40 beats
per minute. We grow flippers in the shadows.
Become buoyant. Flop and sun with them, one
blubber-happy family. Cells muted, cameras
off, to prove to our new warm-blooded friends
we're not the enemy, we roll with them
in tandem. They speak the ancient
language of ort. There's an art to it
as they disperse yet seem to swim toward us.
We've come in peace. We may never go home.
©2016 Kate Sontag
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