What To Do About Sharks

Vivian Shipley

If a hammerhead or a great white makes
waves during your workshop or poetry reading,
don't flap your elbows or slap at it with rolled
manuscripts. Sharks thrive on visual stimulation.
Blow out candles. Ease away from the podium,
and wait at least ten minutes before going
for a light switch. Join hands to keep karma
with the other poets. It's okay to recite
poems you memorized in fifth grade,
Joyce Kilmer, in desperation, even Longfellow.
Rule of thumb: it's a shark not a dolphin
if it is slamming about the room, hugging,
blowing air kisses. Performers, sharks
are almost all instinct and no brain. Without
a sense of occasion, they'll crash any gig,
underwater or not, from Madagascar to Malibu.
Being eyed by a shark can be exasperating,
but don't rush or shift from foot to foot
to induce motion sickness. Sharks are immune.
They are, however, dyslexic. Flash cover quotes,
prize-winning poems directly in front of both eyes.
Better yet—stop reading. Pull your new hardback
from a knapsack, and if the shark noses you
with repeated sharp jabs, hit it on the snout.
If all else fails, sharks have a keen sense
of hearing. Sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic
at the top of your lungs. Sharks have short
attention spans, get bored, leave if there is
no open mike. So, swing into another verse:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
Copyright © 2008 by Vivian Shipley. First published in the Paterson Literary Review. Used by permission of the author.

Further Reading

Poems about Sharks
Angel Shark
by Hailey Leithauser
Ants and Sharks
by Tomasz Rózycki
by Ernest Hilbert
At Shark Reef Sanctuary
by Eva Alice Counsell
Beach Walk
by Henri Cole
Coffee and Oranges
by Joel Brouwer
Flying Fish: An Ode [excerpt]
by Charles Wharton Stork
Haunted Seas
by Cale Young Rice
I Wonder What It Feels Like to be Drowned?
by Robert Graves
In a Breath
by Carl Sandburg
Inheritance of Waterfalls and Sharks
by Martín Espada
Murray Dreaming
by Stephen Edgar
No Place Like Home
by Stephen Cushman
Ode on Dictionaries
by Barbara Hamby
Plague of Dead Sharks
by Alan Dugan
by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Seal Lullaby
by Rudyard Kipling
Sharks in the Rivers
by Ada Limón
Sharks' Teeth
by Kay Ryan
Shoal of Sharks
by Richard O'Connell
Song of the Paddlers [excerpt]
by Herman Melville
Submarine Mountains
by Cale Young Rice
Summer [excerpt]
by James Thomson
The Bluefish
by Isaac McLellan
The Maldive Shark
by Herman Melville
The Ripple Effect
by Jamey Dunham
The Sea is History
by Derek Walcott
The Shark
by Isaac McLellan
The Shark
by William Henry Venable
The Shark
by Judith Beveridge
The Shark
by Lord Alfred Douglas
The Shark's Parlor
by James Dickey
The Sharks
by Denise Levertov
The Sirens
by James Russell Lowell
The Steel Rippers
by Patricia Carlin
Tiger Shark
by Hailey Leithauser
Untitled [There, by the crescent moon, the shark]
by Shido
Upon Shark
by Robert Herrick
White Sales
by Allen Grossman
World Below the Brine
by Walt Whitman