247: Tide Pool

247: Tide Pool

247: Tide Pool

Tide Pool
by John Balaban

Here the ancient lava slid into the sea,
hissed up steam clouds, then cooled into stone

making a moonscape in the volcanic shelf
pocked with basins, cracked by runnels

where tides chafe canyons day and night
scooping out clear shallow pools,

sand-bottomed cisterns, where sun shaft
and tide-froth ply their metaphors.

At the pools edge, a hermit crab with ivory claw,
pop-dot blue eyes, and strawberry whiskers

sidles off under some dead shell.
In the tidal rinse, blue neon fingerlings

flit between the rocks. Fiddlers swim away
at the shift of a shadow and deeper down

beneath wrinkles of light in the tide-washed crooks
the ink-purple urchins wait for whatever.

A sun and a moon, but a fishbowl nonetheless
for little lives in their amorous wriggles,

for the crashing sea punching holes below the shelf
flushing innocent worlds, leaving only

a stone stage for watery dramas beneath the sky,
an existential entertainment, an opera mimicking

our desire for an imagined home, in a place
forever perishing, a place to live.

"Tide Pool" by John Balaban, from EMPIRES by John Balaban, copyright © 2019 Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

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