Today the darkness doesn’t surpass the wonder.
Today fireflies and wildfires exist in the same breath.
One light not canceling the other.
Someone’s flannel shirt hung on a broken fence.
It’s easy to find prayers in the scrub-rose, mementos
in the sagebrush we never cut back.
Today the darkness is more like a lightness,
a love potion created from honeysuckle vines.
And beyond the shadows, there’s starlings
and starshine, cloudstorms and cloudscape,
someone’s description of the sea.
Maybe today light is simmering in an apology,
maybe there’s a hint of radiance in your split
pea soup. Today what we are making will sustain us,
fill our bodies, our bowls, and when we misspell
hate as gate, there’s an opening to the garden
through our typos where we enter a kinder world.
During A Lunar Eclipse, You Tell Me Your Mom Explained
Mutual Masturbation to You When You Were Eleven
Forget about first base, let’s talk about
the strike zone, the snatch-catch, the designated hitter,
how Dick Stuart took his gum from his mouth
every time he went up to bat—oh the choke grip, squeeze
play, spitball, spitball, tobacco on the floor of the dugout.
Forget Mickey Mouse, let me show you the phallic castle
on the Little Mermaid video case, raise the volume
when Aladdin says, Good teenagers, take off your clothes, and pause
thirty-eight minutes into The Rescuers so you can see
the topless woman in the window above the mice as they fly
through the city in a sardine can—pause it, rewind, replay again.
Forget grocery shopping, but remember the 80’s neon Pepsi
cans spelled out SEX alarming the shoppers at Safeway.
And the naked man on the pack of Camel cigarettes,
the guy on page 602 of the ’75 Sears catalog,
and the ice cube woman reclining in a glass of scotch.
Now, forget the first kiss, going together, holding hands,
and move right into the good stuff, the mother-you’re-terrifying-
me-and-I’ll-never-have-sex-for-years examples, she-bop, couples
on blankets in the middle of the field, dancing (metaphor,
metaphor) under the last bit of wedge of a shadowed-out moon.
The Morning as I Ran My Paddleboard into a Rock, I Was Thinking
How the Kingfisher Keeps Telling Me to Move More Gently
Because barnacles scraped the underside of my board
and the kelp kept wrapping around my fin,
I thought how the world doesn’t want to hold me
back, it wants to tangle me in its seaweed, it wants to
surround me with red-winged blackbirds
in the pussywillows of wetlands. Fuck,
it’s beautiful today—the simplest words are sometimes
the truest. Like when I took off my shirt and dove
into the coldest water as if I believed I wouldn’t
freeze, I thought, Breathe. Sometimes a body
doesn’t remember, sometimes the Dungeness crabs
have your back. Dear Marine Life, let me leave
your oysters alone and when I do choose to love you,
let me shuck you slowly, leave your shells on the beach.
Sometimes I forget how easy it is to be neglectful,
you may want me to say something about sorrow,
but because barnacles slice when stepped on, I will talk
about blood and how when my sister got her period
on her honeymoon in Hawaii she never thought more
about sharks. How many ways can I say,
Never turn your back on the ocean, how many ways can I
say, One earth? And because I chose to love you, world,
I may need to tell you, I will apologize more
than needed, I will ask for forgiveness when I put on
my boots and tramp across your shores.
Kelli Russell Agodon’s (she/her) fourth collection of poems, Dialogues with Rising Tides will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2021. She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press as well as the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women. Agodon lives in a sleepy seaside town in Washington State where she is an avid paddleboarder and hiker.