Laura Madeline Wiseman
Inside the Spouse of the Ocean, the World Carrier, the Great Seal
They say we egg on lies. They say we’re too easy to hook,
reel from the waters, net, then string. They say we can’t
block or bolster, that we roll under pressure, unable to
mouth air. Muscles writhe, then bruise. We’re taunted,
bellied, bullied, boxed. They say we scavenge, head like a
crawdad, plastic-filled. They say, too boney, blue-veined,
or pale. But even the gasoline rainbows. Even the dock
holds high the tools of catch—string, net, reel. Even the
marina attempts. They say this or that, but saying is easy.
We say we’re the ancient wisdom revealed along the river.
What’s revealed along rivers, but broad-backs, twisted-
necks, limbs like kickstands. Hello world, we’ve had
enough. We’re warriors, teachers, and guides. We remake
our body into whatever’s required—half-fish, turtle, lord.
We don’t sleep, we mediate. We don’t favor, we bind. We
aren’t mean, we’re half-poisoned by what’s dumped, left to
fester. Still, we stretch to listen to stories. We all have pain,
loneliness. Under the trees’ shadows, we’re afraid of
nothing—creature, amphibian, desert willow, beasts in the
air. Our aim is to be great, to become half something else.
We carry the weight of elephants to support the world.
Under the weight of elephants who support the world, no
one can do this. It’s a lotus folded. It’s a head-to-knee
untouched. It’s a mudra to awaken the snake in the spine. It
cures, seals, shuts, and closes. It makes oceanic surf
tumble, then waterways that wash asunder. In this studio
beside the levy, when will great rivers rise again? Will we
extend our spine when it happens, open as a flower, hold
our hands to tap into what’s still sexual inside? How to
know? Now all tumble, hips open, foreheads rest. Everyone
reaches towards the beast who thrashes.
We can’t rest or shut eyes. We can’t extend or slide. We
tried to place a forehead in the crook of their arm—hand or
cheek as if to watch a little TV. But they were all arms and
elbows, stacked against us, cold shoulders, yellow bellies,
lies. We rolled, but they twisted us back. We stared at the
ceiling, then the side-wall. We tried to breathe, to prove we
were more than half-mammal, less than half-fish. Is truth
an undertow pushed up from the bottom of terror? Travel,
zoo, or farm, the beast lives where everything we knew
Everything we knew vanished. We sing theme songs. We
love a curly, blond puppet. If elsewhere kisses turn us into
princes, we remain all joints, forever green, side-gazing.
Sometimes we sit like a rock, a gracilis, another word for
slender. Sometimes they slide us open with a towel. They
ride us in a circle. We support their weight—limbs turned
outward, tail way back. Later, when we explain, some yell,
Froggie! Warts! as if we’re catching. Inside, we carry it
like a jar, a backpack of sand, a ledge in a forest. We travel
to places not on their map.
Not on their ancient map, we’re half-sons, folk-goddesses,
companion-kings. We’re what coils along necks, conquers
weather, lies beside the swords that cause thunder. We
mean couch, eternal, infinity, without end. Some call us a
stretch of a thousand heads that lounge on what’s
primordial. Our body swallows whole. We balance limbs,
turn the blood, fix sleep. We’re see also, references, further
reading, external links. Why call us animal on the ocean
floor? Who talks? Who listens? It all makes the head ache,
the sinus fill with pressure. We are what’s thrashing on the
ocean floor. Remember we have no arms.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the editor of two anthologies, Bared and Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Book List. She is the recipient of the 2015 Honor Book Nebraska Book Award, a Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Award. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetry. Her latest book is Through a Certain Forest (BlazeVOX [books] 2017). Her book Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), is a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Sports.