Questions of Replication: The Brittle Star

More

audioear pictureHear the author read this poem (in RealAudio)

Why now, under seven fathoms of sea,
with sunlight just a sheen on its carapace
and someone's dark paddle stroking above?
Why, at this moment, does it lift from the reef
its serrated jaws, its four undulant,
tendril arms—the fifth atomized
by a predator's nudge—to begin
the body's slow unbuckling? Near the reef
a kick-dust of plankton hovers. And eel grass.
And far down the sea floor, the true starfish
in their dank, illegible constellations.
What salt-rich analgesic allows
this self-division, as the disc parts
and tendril arms, each with a thousand
calcite eyes, sway into slender helixes?
Half disc and half disc. Limb pair; limb pair.
Two thousand eyes; two thousand crystal eyes—
that must notice now the emergent other,
aslant but familiar, slowly swimming away:
its butterflied, genetic list, its tendency
toward luminescence. Limb over limb,
where is it headed? And when will its absence
echo, adrift in the sea's new weight?
Half shape; half shape—how far will it stroke
before loss, like daylight, lessens,
and the one that remains twines its optic arms
to look to the self for completion?

Linda Bierds teaches at the University of Washington. Her new collection of poems, First Hand, will appear this spring.
Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In