Terrebonne Bay

is closing. Sweet crude oil, orange as rust,
finds an open pathway into the marsh.
And what you thought would be your home,
lush with grasses, is no home, drives you out into the gray-glazed
gates of sleep. Blood flowers
where we don’t see it. And every chance event
is a high note racing from stars in sea-depths of brightness,
and every shock we feel we feel only with the slack
ropes of our arms. Someone
wants to hide the body of oil and cannot.
Someone wants to hide their hands from shame.
Shark, dolphin, manatee, fish,
each slick skin an undreamt tine threading its red
flute-dusk through fumes.
Sound of the flood-dark pulse.
Then the second when the water makes no sound.

eroding the banks. The islands that once dotted the bays
have sunk, disappearing into silverish grit, thinned
into algae and filament now being made
quiet by plumes. Despite ourselves
we are made quiet. The death of the sea
a thing we must lower ourselves into
to imagine. I will stay with you here
inside the sheen of orange that quickly kills,
not like the saltwater slowly starving the freshwater-
marshes and grasses that knit this green-wet
world together. The two breathless gannets
found covered in oil are not unlike you,
at the mercy of a mercy that moves in plumes,
that insists certain fates remain
invisible. What existed before the oil arrived
was delicate and mired, a broom of moonlight
swept through half-choked waves. I trust you
if you wish for what it, too, might have been.

LEADING INTO THE BAY are soft green expanses of
grasses, saltwater channels, slicks
not glimpsed here before.
The birds bathe where they can,
in half-damp shadows that make possible the next free
climb into air. There is nothing beyond our means to feel it—
oil pushing up to the surface where the surface-dwellers die,
turtles pulling in from the Gulf for nesting.
If I close my eyes I can hear the faint blue
traces of blood over-gathered by oil
and the sound of ice near the seafloor.
There will be a time when nothing living moves,
a degradation of stillness beyond any liquid scar.
Still, the solutions of despair are weak
if you believe you can touch an undersea reef,
the belly of a small wounded whale.
You have the power to feel it.
The breath of the animal
moving like trust into your arms.

we thought we saw a patch of sun greening in waves.
The slip of a fish. There was a need
so deep in our bodies we could not even weep.
We called for an end and that end
did not come. Power after power, our machine tools
and cutting tools did nothing to hold back the brown clouds
rippling in chaotic columns toward the light.
And what the skies mean, passing over beds of tarred
seaweed, feels unutterable, like the darkness
around a candle. Where had we hoped to live?
You came into the month with dreams.
You walked on those beaches even though
you knew they were sick. The bird that sought
the reeds to die in, the fish gill-soaked with oils—
you gathered them into yourself as if you alone
could bring back their flickering.
And overhead the novae exploded toward you
along tracks of gas and dust, and the fields of ocean
rose into you, and the crabs broke from their cancer fossils
in masses of tiny flowers and you felt inside you
the islands re-arise, flushed from the thickening
imbalance of the earth. (Is there some
refuge beyond ourselves that is vast enough?
The sea is without grief. As are the days.)

Joanna Klink, "Terrebonne Bay" from Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy.  Copyright © 2015 by Joanna Klink.  Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Source: Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy (Penguin Books, 2015)
More Poems by Joanna Klink