poem

Five Tiny Doves

It was clear she had carefully considered
which jagged rock

from the pile of rocks provided
for the purpose. Her pitching arm was

winding up. I glanced aside
and saw a school of silvery fish

bank left and right around some
monolithic coral growth, around

a sunken hull of ship. The silver
parted and merged again like

balls of mercury. The hull
was overgrown with waving plants

and strands of ramifying green.
She lashed the whipcord for

more optimal momentum.
I turned my drooping eye and caught

a glimpse of a sea horse disappearing
into dark. The ridges of its

body glistened with mysterious
gems, then another sea horse

propelled into view using its extravagant
dragon-tail. It beckoned me

to follow. How can sunlight
make it down so deep, I thought.

I was concentrating hard.
In the periphery, I saw

the shovel blade bear down
as if upon another’s head, hitting

another person. Far up, away,
bared teeth with a distant

blue sky behind—I myself
heard from the bottom of the sea

the folding of an ocean wave
upon its surface, the muted cry

of wheeling seagulls up above,
scavenging and rowdy, somewhere

far out above the blue expanse,
breathing air, occasionally

dipping in. But sound in water—Water,
the conduit of sound! From my ear’s

positioning far below the choppy surface,
from my auditory nerves, I heard

inside a saturated seashell’s whorl, I heard
the flank of a fish creak

to change its angle, heard acceleration
as it sped away,

the pointillistic gleam
of fluctuating scales.

I heard the effort of a sea slug,
a squeaking on the coral.

I heard a crab dance by on pointed feet
beneath an old crab line

where at the floating end, I heard fraying
of the fibers—Loosen—Slacken into

dark. The lightless bottom, where no
distilled ray will ever penetrate. Oh, the sound

inside the pitch! Nearby, on the darkened
ocean floor, I heard a living sand dollar

drag its mass across the thickening granules.
I heard its velvet spines, its follicles unfurl,

extend and grasp, its cilia grip individual
grains of sand, the rough-cut

edges of the grains, and heave its cumbrous
body forward, overtaking

discarded skeletons and shells
along the way. A living sand dollar

on its path across the sediment! Five tiny doves
live inside that sand dollar—

How much more can I ignore?
I listened for the doves—

Oni Buchanan

Must a Violence
University of Iowa Press

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