Sharks in the Rivers

Ada Limón

We'll say unbelievable things
to each other in the early morning—
our blue coming up from our roots,
our water rising in our extraordinary limbs.
All night I dreamt of bonfires and burn piles
and ghosts of men, and spirits
behind those birds of flame.
I cannot tell anymore when a door opens or closes,
I can only hear the frame saying, Walk through.
It is a short walkway—
into another bedroom.
Consider the handle. Consider the key.
I say to a friend, how scared I am of sharks.
How I thought I saw them in the creek
across from my street.
I once watched for them, holding a bundle
of rattlesnake grass in my hand,
shaking like a weak-leaf girl.
She sends me an article from a recent National Geographic that says,
Sharks bite fewer people each year than
New Yorkers do, according to Health Department records.
Then she sends me on my way. Into the City of Sharks.
Through another doorway, I walk to the East River saying,
Sharks are people too.
Sharks are people too.
Sharks are people too.
I write all the things I need on the bottom
of my tennis shoes. I say, Let's walk together.
The sun behind me is like a fire.
Tiny flames in the river's ripples.
I say something to God, but he's not a living thing,
so I say it to the river, I say,
I want to walk through this doorway
But without all those ghosts on the edge,
I want them to stay here.
I want them to go on without me.
I want them to burn in the water.
From Sharks in the Rivers by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2010 by Ada Limón. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Roadside Attractions with the Dogs of America by Ada Limón
It's a day when all the dogs of all
The Conditional by Ada Limón
Say tomorrow doesn't come.

Further Reading

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by Alex Lemon
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' 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 Lord Alfred Douglas
The Shark
by Isaac McLellan
The Shark
by William Henry Venable
The Shark
by Judith Beveridge
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
What To Do About Sharks
by Vivian Shipley
White Sales
by Allen Grossman
World Below the Brine
by Walt Whitman