New England Aquarium
Nature / Can only love herself. —W. H. Auden, “Oxford”
Bears of Nazareth and Juneau, conifers
of Damascus and Leechtown, fishes of Portau-Prince and Narragansett, wolves of night
and daybreak—all are filled from rump to ruff,
from tooth to lynx’s tuft, root to needle, with
wasps’ buzz, pine sap, shade of the Cascades frog’s
dorsal spots, the spark of heatless artificial
suns in flickering jellies through which current
runs. Creatures, come: smash cymbal and tympanum,
honk kazoos, strike out these words, play animate
songs. Love, Nature can only sing herself.
Come, call on ribboned life behind crystal.
The brume of days upon days has lifted.
Drifting starfish break from black water as
suddenly as stars spring from indigo
skies. We will write new elegies as new years
arrive. Let us chatter then about our
centuries’ and cities’ failings; let us
discourse later of the worsening chop.
Harpooned and drowned, those of us sprung from flame
yet cling to the view that only flame will
torch us. Where we have been is where we will
burn; where we became coal, we will inhale.
Coastal giant salamanders retain
their gills. Pain noses toward us; a straining
hollow insists: You are unloved by time
and nature unsatisfied. Two wolves ring
the buzzer; a sponge drinks our tea. Although
they are legion, the signs are illegible.
Our weirs and nets catch only tiring fish,
a puzzle of sparrows, a scare of grackles,
a bundle of kites, a kettle of crows,
and not the light, the magnetic north,
we need and know we need in our dire south.
Love, Nature can only save herself.
Lit jellyfish float in a dark glass tristesse.
Timed jets flush anemones next door with
oxygen. Past the crush roosts the ample
gift shop ruled by stuffed emperors; harbour
seals wait for dental inspection; and sunglare
descends, my beloved, the caving steps
of the Aquarium stop on the T.