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Here is my 6th poem in the Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge. Again, I am writing 30 poems in 30 days to support (and raise funds) for the nonprofit Tupelo Press. I’m not alone; there are 8 other poets doing TP Donatethis with me. Their poetry, along with mine, can be found at the Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge blog page.  I have linked to some of the other poets’ WordPress blogs, too, under my blogroll and will be adding others as I get the links. Please support Tupelo Press. They are publishing a lot of good work and really depend on the generosity of readers, lovers of poets and kindred spirits.

Dream Sharks

Sharks swam below me in an army of shadows
All moving in one direction: the same one
I was swimming in the dark ocean.

I aimed my flashlight; its beam illuminated
Their silhouettes—unmistakable, these ghost predators
In hazy kelp-dappled moonlight. Our lives, semi-fated.

I saw their fins, recognizable shapes, their stout squarish
Faces, gills and the dorsal, pointing up at me. I swam
Endangered, a subconscious fear of role reversal.

I didn’t splash; I cut the water nose-first
And swam as though fish or a shark myself,
No longer shining a spotlight.

My senses led me, an internal system navigated,
Waves sped me—I felt propelled by some innate energy
Thrust through the water, half under, mostly submerged.

The flashlight, gone. But the sharks, my entourage
A night brigade guarded my belly. We smelled collectively,
The marked perfume of carnage, full-blooded.

We moved in “S” formations: synchronized as a school,
Gliding to white noise, slalom water-skiiers, snakes in a desert.
And when I woke, my skin felt cool.

I was one of them.

LCS   TP Subscribe

Today I won a shark trivia contest over Twitter. The prompt was, “Name a shark species that is directly threatened by climate change.” I made a case for the bull shark, which depends on coastal estuaries, rivers, mangroves, freshwater wetlands to nurse their young. Rivers and coastal wetlands are disappearing, in part due to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. I won the trivia contest with my answer. It got me thinking about other endangered species…and their impediments to survival. For example, there is this article about the gray wolf ‘Single white male wolf seeks companionship. Must love the outdoors.” (For article, click here.)

If I were an endangered species, I might be the rare sawfish. Why? Oh, indulge me. 🙂 The sawfish live in saltwater and freshwater habitats–freely swimming from one to the next and back again. Its versatility is part of what makes it so unique, and I do love to swim in both freshwater and saltwater. The shark-like smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), for example, which can go into freshwater, as well as shallow waters of bays and estuaries in the southeastern U.S. and Caribbean, is technically a ray. (For more about this, see my past Strange Wetlands blog about Sharks in Wetlands.) Listed as an endangered species, the smalltooth sawfish has become extirpated because of changes to coastal environments—namely losses of wetlands, such as the Everglades. While I’m not from the Everglades, I was conceived in Florida…so who’s to say that I don’t have that in common with young sawfish nursed by their parents in the freshwater swamps of the Everglades? I did grow up on the coast of Maine, swimming in shallow coastal estuaries of the Sheepscot River, in similar habitats as preferred by sawfish. I have a prominent nose (it’s genetic) & strong sense of smell as shared by sharks & rays, and I don’t have the best eyesight, same as for the sawfish, who likes muddy waters. (In high school, one of my favorite perfumes was called “Ocean,” and friends thought it smelled like low tide mudflats.) Sawfish and I both like to eat crustaceans, especially lobster!

Little is known about the courtship behaviors of sawfish except that they seem to couple up once every two years. (This is somewhat true of me, too.) Despite their unusual appearance, they don’t attack people; sawfish put up a fight once hooked (by a fisherman) and this is probably true of me, too, to some degree. Take this with a drop of saltwater. Allow me to cut to the chase: I’m no sawfish but I do feel like a rare creature most of the time, swimming around, looking for a mate, someone who shares my versatile interests in different environments from the sea to the lakes & rivers, someone who’s capable of swimming upstream, against the current, against the odds, to find me. Single female rare lake-dwelling ocean-dipping sawfish seeks companionship. Must love to swim.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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