The tide pool crumples like a woman
into the smallest version of herself,
bleeding onto whatever touches her.
The ocean, I mean, not a woman, filled
with plastic lace, and closer to the vanishing
point, something brown breaks the surface—human,
maybe, a hand or foot or an island
of trash—but no, it’s just a garden of kelp.
A wild life.
This is a prayer like the sea
urchin is a prayer, like the sea
star is a prayer, like the otter and cucumber—
as if I know what prayer means.
I call this the difficulty of the non-believer,
or, put another way, waking, every morning, without a god.
How to understand, then, what deserves rescue
and what deserves to suffer.
Or should I say, what must
be sheltered and what abandoned.
I might ask you to imagine a young girl,
no older than ten but also no younger,
on a field trip to a rescue. Can you
see her? She is led to the gates that separate
the wounded sea lions from their home and the class.
How the girl wishes this measure of salvation for herself:
to claim her own barking voice, to revel
in her own scent and sleek brown body, her fingers
woven into the cyclone fence.
Donika Kelly, “Sanctuary.” Copyright © 2019 by Donika Kelly. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow.
Source: PoetryNow (2019)