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Rosamond S. King
Rosamond S. King

Sea Garden

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 24, 2017.
About this Poem 

“When I heard that dead man’s fingers is the name of a type of coral, it seemed appropriate, since so many people perished in the ocean during the Transatlantic slave trade. ‘Sea Garden’ suggests that if you dive into the ocean, you will see beautiful and scary natural objects—some living, and some remnants of the dead.”
—Rosamond S. King

Sea Garden

Dead man’s fingers—
short and still
or waving spindles
brain coral,
mountain coral
ground small—they
would be pebbles
if they weren’t shards
hiding places
for trumpet
fish and crabs
live and dead coral
What is sand made of?
Who is to know
which is coral
and which
is bone
From the surface you
can see dark
patches where sea grass
and spirit hair grow

Copyright © 2017 by Rosamond S. King. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Rosamond S. King. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

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Mount Rainier National Park
Walt Whitman manuscript
poem

The Leash

After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what's
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to
say, Don't die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn't there still
something singing? The truth is: I don't know.
But sometimes, I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don't die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps, we are always hurtling our body towards
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.

Ada Limón
2016
poem

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.
Naomi Shihab Nye
1995