A strand of algae leaves its rubbery
translucent swatch on her skin. Her first impulse
is to peel it off lest a horror
movie version of contagion unfold
and her skin turn zombie green–telltale alien,
more slime than flesh, attracting gnats, pin head skitters
moving so rapidly all is flux.
Her second impulse is to keep it as a totem
of subterranean life, a scrap chiseled
from things that are meant to sink. Deep is form,
like a snail that burrows into silt, shell
growing out of sludgy cravings.
A life-in-death feel. The croaks frogs make
drowning in natural desire. Believe me,
diving into this mosh pit, she does not
float softly through water.
Pond life is too shallow. No flotsam or jetsam,
sneakers, ice-hockey gloves, Chinese message
in a bottle. Even the dam’s stopped up,
no bigger than an oversized sink filled
nightly with dishes. No reputable
oceanographer will chart its depth —
another thing she’ll never know
about herself. Territorial and fiercely defensive,
rock bottom will not be reached.
To be essential something must be both deep
and wide. Eyes with skies in them. Upswept
lashes and brows. A western monsoon.
Dreams that stretch over many nights to mimic
the feel of sea-foam on ankles,
down to the cellular properties of summer.
Harriet Levin’s debut book of poetry, The Christmas Show (Beacon Press) was selected by Eavan Boland for the Barnard New Women Poet’s Prize and also won the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her second book, Girl in Cap and Gown (Mammoth Books) was a National Poetry Series finalist. Her debut novel, How Fast Can You Run (Harvard Square Editions) appeared in October. With Martha Pennington, she is co-editor of Creativity and Writing Pedagogy (Equinox). Her poems appear most recently in Harvard Review, H_NGM_N, Iowa Review, and Chiron Review and her prose in thesmartset.com, PEN America and The Kenyon Review. She teaches writing and directs the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing at Drexel University.