On The Gulf in Alabama

I. Oil Rigs

In the afternoon, they shake from the land’s heat.

Their aphid legs reach so deep
pearl-divers fantasize about taking one breath before
tracking down to the toes and supporting their family for life.
Someone is drowning in The Gulf.

Oil rigs never take their insect-legs off the ottoman,
pick up their bag near the shore, and walk,
Salvador Dali style, from the horizon
or to the horizon, or somewhere the wake won’t tap their legs
like a five-year-old with a new knock-knock joke.
They never sit down deeply into the a rocking chair, and wonder,
wiping a handkerchief across their forehead,
why they ever settled in such waters.

They hold tight to rocky bottoms
trusting in treasures hiding where no one looks.

II. Pearl Divers and Their Families

The divers run their knives a little bit harder across their fingers
trying to toughen the callouses so they can grip the aphid oysters
and tear them from the ankles of oil rigs.

Their children practice burying and digging up each other in the sand.
Each morning at school, their teacher tells them to leave their line at the door
and hang their goggles beside their backpacks.
At recess they take turns timing each other
as they race around the playground holding their breath.
Their father said, “If you can make it around the school, to home and back to class
and still know who the 35th president is, you can dive.”
So they study in the bathtub, reciting dates and battles
under water, their answers in bubbles like good S.A.T. takers.

They hope they are the ones, grown strong and lean like the legs of oil rigs,
who take the breath that rips the pearl the size of a book from the natural world.
They hope the rocky darkness gives them a rope to lead them
away from the shore that made them shake, the shore where
they held their breath and counted oil rigs to count each passed second in The Gulf.

Jacob Collins-Wilson

Jacob Collins-Wilson

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