Shearwater

You were given feet but had never touched
them to earth. You were given the sea
and you fed upon it for months.
 
So when your head crowned, ashen
with loss of blood from the cord
wound tight around your neck,
 
and when they cut you from me,
and you were silent, and the tide in me
receded, I remembered the shearwaters
 
following the ship—the slow sweep
of them riding the wind’s current.
The stretch of them, hovering,
 
cruciform, shearing the air the way an envelope
slides back into a box of letters, making
its narrow space. I had watched
 
from the stern for hours their trailing:
as if stillness itself drifted toward me.
I thought it was my life.
 
Then someone lifted you up,
and there was a sound,
and they laid you on me, breathing.
 

Rachel Richardson, "Shearwater" from Hundred-Year Wave.  Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Richardson.  Reprinted by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.
 
Source: Hundred-Year Water (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2016)
More Poems by Rachel Richardson