My grey zone
is starting to include the waters
though today the Caribbean is milkier,
its black anemones frothing with static grace.
When Rick emerges from ten foot swirls
just beyond the protective buoys, his fins
splayed in mid-somersaults,
I cannot tell he's been readying himself,
harvesting colors, both common and rare,
naming them once for himself and once for us all,
his back slick as usual, but shimmering now
with the nacreal smiles of black lipped oysters.
I want to call out, What does it feel like there,
does fear have a different color outside normal light —
but the lifeguard is running up and down
yelling that someone disappeared the oxygen tank,
my boy's crying over the routine panic of sandcrabs,
and Rick is already swallowing sunrays while chanting something
about Russians having all these words for light blues and dark blues —
goluboj, seenij — but nothing for plain blue, then he butterflies
the placental grayness.
The first couplet echoes the beginning of Tadeusz Rózewicz's
My mother rescues bitter cherries off Queens Boulevard.
She catches and hoists them in the net of her pleated skirt,
cradles them to her employer's kitchenette.
On a leather barstool that spins into night, she pits and pits,
keeps pace with the vermicular fanfare, bitter blood
under nails, petite castanets cackling in the dry mouth.
On the trenches of dawn, crushed flesh dissolves in the sugar bath
as she nods, on one elbow, on the squeals of bedroom doors.
She spoons coffee, keeping count aloud, and pours milk for kids' pancakes
as instructed, with a measuring cup. The perfect scale of her eyes
she wastes on homespun sanitizers — 2/3vinegar 1/3 peroxide —
for sinks, counters, her Eager Beaver, his dumbbells.
She jogs through the day in bark slippers, mother dear, elm
embossed with perfectly knifed hearts and scars of self-love.
What's she doing here, my mother, in a toddler cot, apron pockets
lined with shriveled fruit worms, jars of preserve
ticking under the mattress like hand grenades.