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About this Poem 

"As an underwater photographer one of the things I love most about being in the ocean is interacting with a world that has nothing to do with me, a world with its own passions, social structures, dangers. The awareness that we humans are harming that world is always with me so I wondered what the ocean might say if given a chance."
—Marie-Elizabeth Mali

If the ocean had a mouth


I'd lean close, my ear
to her whisper and roar,
her tongue scattered
with stars.
 
She'd belt her brassy voice
over the waves' backbeat.
No one sings better than her.
 
Would she ever bite
the inside of her cheek?
 
Would she yell at the moon
to quit tugging at her hem,
or would she whistle, drop
her blue dress and shimmy
through space to cleave
to that shimmer?
 
What did she mean to say
that morning she spit out
the emaciated whale
wearing a net for a corset?
 
All this emptying
on the sand. Eyeless
shrimp. Oiled pelicans.
 
Within her jaws the coral forests,
glittering fish, waves like teeth,
her hungry mortal brine.

Copyright © 2014 by Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 26, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2014 by Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 26, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Marie-Elizabeth Mali is the author of Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2011). She lives in Santa Monica, California.

by this poet

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Balancing on crutches in the shallows
near her mother, a girl missing her right lower leg
swings her body and falls, laughing.
Behind them, her father and brother play catch.
Up the beach, the incoming tide nibbles
a sleeping woman, another beer is opened.
A young veteran walks by with

poem

Pulling out of Union Square station, the subway
sounds the first three notes of There's a place for us,
somewhere a place for us. A woman sits on me, shoves
her dim planet-face at mine and blames me
for not moving. My face half numb—
post-root canal. I want to incinerate