Beyond Prose

She stands beneath the battered spruce,
the one that’s stood in the yard
since the War Between the States,
and tries to add up
the weight of ice
times the thrust of wind
plus the weakness of 150 years,
and the randomness
of luck, to calculate
the angle of destruction
that’s left wood
wounded, hanging at odd
angles and branches piled
on the ground that could have
hit the house but only yanked
the wires and pulled some siding
down. Near misses.
Spared this time by the
geometry of falling trees.

-- Kathy Jennings, 2011

The book of the Ghost Dog
Ghost Dog doesn’t come when I call her. Just like every dog I ever owned.

Art found her bones up under the kitchen. Says she’s been gone four, five years. She couldn’t get back inside when he fixed the hole in the foundation. Hear that? Claws on stone.

She leaves me presents. Moles, rabbits, once a woodchuck. Ghost critters. I clear the porch each morning.

Ghost Dog sits, one paw raised. Still begging.

She likes to run through the yard with a stick twice her size in her mouth. So long it drags on the ground. On no-moon nights that stick looks like it’s charging up and down on its own.

She sheds moonlight like water when she gives herself a good shake.

Sometimes she sits and waits. She has the thousand-mile stare of the almost-gone.

At dusk, I feel her wet nose, cold. I hear short, sharp panting. She’d lick my face if I let her. But the tongue of a ghost dog is plain bad luck. 

Ghost dog has no patience with the pack of dogs next door, none of them bigger than your boot.

She gets the best view of the moon from the roof. Must be part of being a ghost dog.

I saw her one night come so fast through the corn field. Springing through the rows. Her ears flying.

I leave her bones. She seems to expect them.

Ghost Dog remembers a boy. He misunderstood warmth for love, but curled against him she didn’t mind.

I wait for the night she figures out she can go right through that stone. Where the hole used to be. Get back to the bones of her. Wonder if she’ll rest then. Or if she’ll be back the next night prowling in the dark.

— Kathy Jennings, 2011

Bird song
Last week, I heard that the song
of certain birds opens
the buds of certain trees,
and I wonder what tree opens
for the crow. Did that oak branch
grow toward the sun because
the bluebird sang it sideways?
What if a tree waits
its whole life for one bird
who never opens its throat? In whispered
conversations do maples ask sparrows
to come closer? Do roots
respond to song or thunder?
Today, bark hangs loosely
over a woody dust.
Have you seen the damage
ants can do?
I hear birds
singing to the trees.

-- Kathy Jennings 2011

Will write for food
I wish we still rented out our lances. That I could make one of those smooth leaping maneuvers from the ground to horse back and my page would hand me a lance, the horse would pound down the lists, and I would skewer oncoming knight. So very satisfying to see him go sprawling. Better than sitting in my desk pounding words into shapes they don’t want to go. Not understanding how to look for the next job to make all this all pay. Pacing up and down the kitchen wondering why the check is two weeks late. Freelancers say we need a new name. Wordy for hire. Editor for lease. Independent one. Lance is beside the point.  And these days nothing and no one is free.

— Kathy Jennings, 2010
There were college books on the shelves in my bedroom. Leftover from the parents’ classes in pedagogy. So at age eight I expected to go to college, all four years of it. She rattled the floorboards when he came home with a $500 Hoover. With a plan to become a millionaire selling Amway, selling foreclosed houses, selling water coolers. When he decided to leave the state after they put the down payment on the house their deposit was gone. We kept our distance as she lashed the end table with a dish towel. I never expected them to contribute to my college education. Never realized parents did. Started working at 16 at the local newspaper and saved every cent. When he suggested community college I just gave him a look. My alma mater offered the cheapest credit hours, good financial aid. The summer  I turned 21 I had two jobs and not enough sleep. On my birthday I sat on the front porch and cried tears of exhaustion. I earned my diploma in more ways than one. My senior year mother started the letters. We are so proud of you she wrote and hope you appreciate all we have done for you.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010
Money trail
Tomorrow the law of attraction will bring the check in the mail that hires my domestic staff, buys the house on the island and pays for the new car. I don’t need much. The tree house -- a bit indulgent, but the villa in the south of France I cannot live without. I have known since I was a teenager this day was coming. I would take out my bike and cross from the Meadows into Minges Brook and ride the streets, up and back, taking in the gardner sculpted lawns, the houses big enough for three families, pedaling, pedaling and taking in long deep breaths of the smell of money.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010
Cleaning house
The story could start with the man: “In the three years I’ve owned this place I’ve seen a lot of ****** up things come through here. I think you look the worst.” My face scratched from here to here. I nodded and smiled. It hurt. My dog couldn’t wait inside the truck stop. Over the intercom: “Maggie is loose. Maggie is loose.”  She comes to me and we sit together in the storeroom on the blanket from the trooper’s car, bright yellow. The state trooper has a beagle who chews through expensive blinds and carpets. He has hit ten deer, four of them in his patrol car. The story must have started when the deer stepped out of the night. I don’t know what happened to the deer. I never asked. I have to pull over to the side of the road. I remember thinking that. The dog jumped over two seats into my lap, my lap full of shivering dog and air bag. When an airbag deploys the car fills with a powder that smells and looks like smoke and for a short time you are sure the car is going to explode. Maybe it started when I ignored the neighbor. He told me not to leave. “Stay here.” I was crying over a box of sweaters and mothballs. Years of Christmas presents to my father. Sitting on the stairs bawling. I turned down the gin and tonic the neighbor offered.  I’m sure it started earlier in the week. With the jar full of pen tops, only the tops. The TV guide so old Alan Alda was in uniform. The collection of broken pencils. The 21 unopened packets of flower seed, mostly geraniums.  When he pulled out of the drive way. When she flew away. When we were all gathered in the church dining hall for their 50th anniversary and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Cry Uncle
My California sister and her husband put Mom and Dad on the plane. It wasn’t just because of the police in the yard. Starbucks’ barking woke everyone up. A knock at the front door. Two policemen standing there. Some punk had gone through the neighborhood smashing car windows. Brother-in-Law’s and Dad’s were hit. The cops asked to see registration for both cars so Sister California goes to wake up Dad. Now four cop cars and eight officers are on the scene. Dad leaves his hearing aid on the dresser and comes out talking too loud. “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.” Especially when he found out his map was stolen from the glove box. “I think we should get the sheriff involved here.” A very big man, talking very loudly. All eight cops and Brother-in-Law are stricken dumb. Look carefully at him, at one another.  One officer pulls Brother-in-Law aside and asks if they need to take Dad in. No, no. He just woke up. He forgot to put in his hearing aids. He doesn’t quite know what is going on. Let’s let him go back to bed.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

He stops outside the airline terminal, fills his lungs with Michigan’s thick, hot August air. His broad smile is that of a man come home. In the past year he’s breathed enough of California to last a lifetime. The smile of a man who’s come home to die.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

In an odd blast of exuberance
I ring the door buzzer in a shave and a hair cut pattern
Never thinking it sounds like an alarm going off
Inside the apartment living room
Remorse is seeing him lying on the floor
All 6 feet 2 and 285 pounds of him
He got up from the chair to answer the door
Too fast and landed on his side
With one arm under the other he levers himself
Up and back onto the pink chair where he sits watching TV
As if he can hear what’s going on. 
 — Kathy Jennings, 2010

Independent living
Taking away a man’s car won’t necessarily keep him home. When he told me he had taken his walker and gone up the winding driveway, past the three sets of dorms, past the fitness center, past the soccer field and parking lots, across Gull Road’s four-lanes to get to the Dairy Queen I didn’t know whether to be proud of his persistence or horrified at what could have happened. I chose proud, a little amused, but the case worker chose horrified. They had already unplugged the stove after he left a pan on the burner. They expect him pitch himself down the stairs when he takes the walker down the steps instead of clomping all the way through the building to the ramp. 
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

As he tried on the suits I was surprised he liked the tiny green, brown and beige checks instead of the deep blue. His jackets had always been blue, like his eyes. Maybe 78 years of blue is enough. I would have picked blue and it would have been wrong. The tailor finished the alterations in time to put it under the tree. I bought the suit so he would have something decent to be buried in.  
 — Kathy Jennings, 2010

The other great race
In my reality show the competition is who is the fastest at getting two walkers in the back of the car, two old people in the front. Without crushing the wire on the walker that controls the hand brakes. Without limbs caught in the door. Seat belts must be fastened. 
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

Neglect and abuse
Mother was afraid he was going to smack her. As she skittered away from an angry outburst she nearly tripped. Next time she might go all the way over. The visiting nurse who sets up his insulin, Mother’s new confidante, decides he should be in a nursing home. Ask a doctor to give the word and an old guy’s declared a victim of neglect and abuse and packed off. We were there all the time, but not at the same time that nurse was. I called the doctor’s office to tell them as calmly as I could -- considering the top of my head was coming off -- he is not abused or neglected. Give me time. I will take care of it. And on the days I walked away from the nursing home wondering if there was another way, a better way, I pictured Mother ducking and falling and not getting up.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

He stares into the campfire. The girls are grown and gone. He has paid enough. Having made his escape he does not want to go back. No matter that summer nights are turning chill, that rain has swamped his campsite. His brother insists he cannot camp though the winter. “I did in Korea.” They pack his damp gear and drive home. When they pull in the drive he sits in the car a long time before going into the house. To her. Her screaming. Her crying. He had never expected much. He wanted to be a forest ranger. He wanted to see China. He wanted to fly a plane.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

The little one
Dad throws the ball to my dog.
Dad slides to the ground.
There was snow. It could have been the snow.
With a big stroke there are signs
A twisted tongue, a face that sags on one side.
With little strokes there is vertigo and dizziness,
Maybe even a fall. But old people fall all the time.
Who’s to say this fall is a stroke and not
The less complicated collapse of one
Who is very nearly ready to escape
The gravitational pull of the earth
If only it were a little less insistent.
There is silent confusion, shaking the head,
Wondering. What was that?
If this is the tremor before the quake
There should be flashing lights,
Honking sirens,
Intermittent buzzers.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

The man in the next hospital bed has had a stroke. His family gathers round, keeping their spirits up by ignoring the feeding tube that means he cannot speak, that moaning sound he makes might be communication or might be a muffled roar from deep inside. I resolve it will not come to this. And so when Dad stops eating for days there is no feeding tube. They apply his pills, a dozen of them, through the skin, absorbing into his bloodstream. They are sure there is no pain. They are very proud of that. Even as I tell myself it’s ridiculous, I wonder if that killed him. The pills he kept spitting out. What if he knew what he was doing? 
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

After awhile he didn’t even try to walk anymore. He gave up the walker and paddled his wheelchair through the halls with his feet. At lunch they tried to make sure he wasn’t eating his food and his neighbor's. We hoped he might lose weight with a dietician watching, but they didn’t know about the itinerant physical therapist, one of Dad’s former high school students. Rex brought breakfast from the hotel buffet every morning. Biscuits and gravy and eggs and pancakes. Food made Dad so happy and he ate like a starving man. Like a man who didn’t remember he had just eaten a bowl of cereal, and a roll, and drunk glass of apple juice.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

Nursing Home
The sign on the door says if you are sick then come back another day. It only takes one germ to turn a nursing home inside out. Everyone here needs individual care. No one gets it. The sorriest ones slump in wheelchairs jammed up at the intersection of the long hall and the short one. The nursing station surrounded. There is a room where you can wheel him in to watch football on TV and if you’re lucky no one else will be there. You might try to strike up a conversation but what is there to say really? It’s too late to acquire the knack. In good weather there is a place under a tree where you can sit and ask what he had for lunch. Or head out across the parking lot, hit the sidewalk, and push his wheelchair along the walkway that surrounds the building. Watch out for the place where the walk buckles to make room for a tree root. He used to know by name the birds calling from the trees.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

Where are you going?
Mother sings little songs all the time. Where are you going, my good old man? Where are you going, my honey, my lamb? Where are you going, my good old man? Best old man in the world. It’s a constant refrain. She likes “best old man in the world” part. I’m certain she doesn’t know the other line: Where do you want to be buried? It pains her when he flirts and jokes with the nurse who brings his tall styrofoam glass of evening ice water. She scowls. She takes it to heart. She comes to dinner to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. But he won’t talk to her. Not once.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

Nursing Home 2
Some days the smell makes your eyes water. Not often. Not often enough to make you look for another place because this is supposed to be the best in town and you have looked at all the others and they stink, too. You think about the aids who go home every day smelling of old people’s piss and shit. There are new staff faces every time you stop in and you are relieved when you see one you recognize three visits in a row. You check the bulletin board so you can say hello to the employee of the week. You check to see if Dad’s supply of diapers is holding out. Whether his clothes came back from the laundry. As you come in the door there are birds in a glass aviary. One time he tried shaking it as if he could set them free.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

The aid stands at the bathroom door. She offers to help clean him up. He stares at her hard. “Get the hell out of here.” I look at him astonished. I look at her embarrassed. Her name is Candace. Her daddy is a preacher. She works here to put herself through school. She smiles at me, shrugs and walks away. He growls. “Some of these girls get aggressive.”
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

Nursing Home 3
The third pair of hearing aids go through the wash. Replace a pair, wash a pair. Every time we visit we have to track down the nurse with the cart where the hearing aids are stowed. They stopped putting them in his ears. He never asks for them. We have to tell the nurse behind the desk where the batteries are kept. You want the staff to know you are paying attention. You hope it makes a difference. Each time it takes a little bit more to bring him out of his own head.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

The End

His eyes are closed, his jaw rigid, his mouth slightly open
as each breath takes three stutters to go in and hesitates
before coming out. The call came at midnight: If you want
to be here at the end come now. So we rounded up Mother
and together the three of us sit beside the bed and watch. I want
the ending to be different. Not white light and angels. Not that different.
I want the nurse who is proud of the way she convinced him she
was pregnant so he would stop kicking her to keep the story to herself.
I want him to be awake. I want him to know we are here. To say goodbye.
Maybe a benediction: May the peace of God go before you.
May you dwell in House of the Lord forever.
When we kiss his head and pat his arm I want him to blink.
Something we can remember as recognition. “See, his lashes trembled.”
As the third hour moves into the fourth, I am the only one awake.
Maybe the nurse is wrong and he will breathe these horrible breaths
for days. There is suspense in each exhale. Without warning
the inhale will not come. I wake them up and tell them he is gone.
I rush down the hall, hands flapping, to tell the staff. They come in
and ask us to wait in the hall while they change the grimacing mask
that is his face to that of someone who has simply gone to sleep.
They say he went peacefully, the tiny lie of those who deal daily with death.
I heard the harsh rhythm of his breath.
It was not peaceful.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

The second goodbye: Eulogy
The tribute to my father is on a thumbdrive. The week between his death and the funeral filled up with pictures. Snapshots and portraits. Priceless pictures of Dad as a toddler. Dad crouched next to his father who holds his infant brother. Dad in his scout uniform. There are few candid family shots, but lots of siblings and cousins grinning into the camera. Scanned and retouched with music in the background you can see them all on YouTube now. The church is gratifyingly full of family, his friends, my friends. Somehow my sister from California sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” In the eulogy his brother says he saw Sam as caring, kind, considerate, and loving, an unselfish person. Sam tried his very best throughout life to appreciate the good and simple things that God has given us and to treat all life as special. He loved the outdoors. And in Korea he volunteered to use a very large and powerful rifle to keep his men safe. Stories I have never heard. There is a searing moment sitting in a church pew with your arm on your mother’s shoulder when you realize you barely knew the man who made your life possible, you didn’t really try, and all these pictures tell you not enough.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

After the funeral: Weather
Thunder shakes the house awake,
Rattles all the windows.
Rain slams against the roof.
Lightning blasts nearby.
The room fully alight, now completely dark.
Eyes burn in the transition.
Thunder pounds.
One, two, three thumps.
Lightning again, and yet again.
A chair jumps, the book shelf shifts.
Rain drives against the house,
lashes the trees, pours down the drive.
The storm rolls on, keeps moving.

Call the dog out from under the bed.
Together, go out
To survey a new landscape.
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

The third goodbye: Military honors
We gather in the drive lined with American flags
The pastor, some missionary friends Dad worked with,
The young man he took under his wing, his brother and brother’s wife
Three of four daughters, his wife, the funeral home representative.
We wait for the soldier in the white jeep. She tells us it’s our turn.
Each service is alloted 15 minutes and our low
Expectations are about to be proved mistaken.
At a turn off, overlooking a wooded slope,
Seven retired soldiers stand at attention waiting for our arrival.
They march up the sidewalk, stand at the rail.
We take our seats under the shelter, room enough for family.
When Mother sings in her wavering voice I start to cry.
She calls it the song God gave her.
Rest in him, rest in him. Jesus is calling, rest in him.
Pastor David with his British accent says the exact right words
And we pass the Kleenex box down the row.
The honor guard leader speaks of bronze stars, purple hearts
And fighting for America. The flag gets thirteen folds. The officer marches
Across the shelter to Mother. Hands her the perfectly folded triangle.
A recorded version of Taps that is moving nevertheless.
The soldiers at the rail: ready, aim, fire. Three volleys into the blue June sky.
Together they pivot and march back down the walkway. 
— Kathy Jennings, 2010

Contract terms for one daughter
His soul says:
You will grow up as a child among snapping wolves
scarred, scared and strong enough to rule an empire,
your ears laid back, growling deep in your throat you will bite
off the hand of the man who reaches for your heart.

The summer I tell you about crazy I will get it all wrong. You will remember
sitting at the picnic table, the porch light pressing back the dark. I will tell you
they warned me about your mother but I married her anyway.
I’ll say it’s what happens when you’re young and think you’re in love.

You will expect my love. Left, or lost, or blasted away
behind the Browning Automatic Rifle I carried in Korea.
You will love me anyway. Children always do.

The night I set out across the barnyard,
light a cigarette and lean against the Studebaker as twilight
rises from the ground, so far away no one can reach me,
I will teach you loneliness by example.

I will be at the hardware the afternoon a lightning bolt in a necktie ricochets
through the living room. Your  mother. You will try to carry her
to the hospital on your shoulders.

The year you turn 17 you will stop talking to me altogether.
You will never forgive me for giving away your dog.
You will want to hate me the day I chase you down the street,
grab you from behind and smack you there before God and the neighbors.

My God and my simple, black-and-white beliefs will not satisfy you.
My picture of the president in the kitchen will appall you.
My donations to every pastor who thumped a Bible will distress you.

When I grow old we will sit together. You will tell me
I can no longer live in my home. You will cry.
You will ask too late about relatives you’ve never met. I don’t remember.
I will ask if you ever wanted brother. You’ll say no.

You will never see me as the boy who holds a rabbit to his chest.
Who keeps homing pigeons out back.
Who names a rat Squeaky and trains it to come when called.

I will explain offsides to you.
I will teach you to fish from the shore.
We will pick blackberries.
I promise to leave you without going away.
You will not understand any of it till I die.

To all of this, my soul says: Yes.

Kathy Jennings,  2010

I found four hearts
under the bench beside the pond.
If you were here
I would give you one.
It is the most misshapen,
but it is right hearted.

You called the other day to tell
me about your new job selling sewers,
a story  you knew  would make me laugh.
Once we wanted all of it to be
as good as some of it was. We tried even
when we knew it was no good.

This is what was real.
Your deep, dark eyes,
black hair that curled
on your head, on your back,
curled so tight it clings
to my blanket years after you have gone.
Sometimes an anger that sent
me crawling to the corner of the bed.
And for all the times we shared
our bodies you withheld so much of yourself,
three years together, never together.

This heart I would give to you today
is stronger than the one I gave
you then. Smooth on one side,
scarred on the other.
It warms when you hold it in your hand.

If you are careful you will hear it beat,
the same beat I heard the other night
in the only dream I remember
in which you’ve played a part.

We were in high school,
though I never knew you then.
I was frantic, backstage, running around.
You caught me in the stairwell.
Told me to calm down,
pulled out a comb and combed my hair,
strongly, surely, gently.

Kathy Jennings

If I remember the farm with a glow it may be because we didn’t make a living there, we simply lived there, played there mostly, in the hayloft, in the pigeon house, in the barnyard  where the weeds grew tall enough to hide in standing up. We played school in the chicken coop.  We played princess in the yard, where the ladies in waiting served crushed leaves, with crushed red poison berries, bark and dirt, we called it coo-coo-kah-kah, consumed  it with the smacking lips of pretend eating. We rearranged the hay bales in the hayloft. At the edge of the cornfield we  stood to watch the Spaniel’s ears flip as he went springing through the rows. We found arrowheads in the dirt. Before we had the run of the barnyard  there were cows. We stood, feet hooked  on the white picket fence and watched them, wondering what would happen if we flapped a red towel at them. They didn’t stay inside their fence, and they left giant, fly-attracting pies, in the front yard,  and the back and side. We picked Queen Anne’s lace, put it in bottles with water and food coloring  and watched it change. We caught a snake,  sealed it in a jar and counted  every time his tongue poked out. We pulled the legs from Daddy Long Legs. We screamed when the dog found the voles in the sleeping bag and ate them. We learned to stay away from the wild cats, at least I did after I found a nest of kittens, held one, then dropped it on its head. We had a baby-sitter named Lois who had the buckest teeth in the world and we treated her mean, even though she read Raggedy Anne books to us. There was a closet that connected our bedroom with mom and dad’s, When they were gone we ran through it, pretending we were escaping through a secret tunnel.  The maple tree outside our room was a thinking tree and I climbed as high as I could go, up to the thinnest branches  when I needed to figure out mothers who stayed in bed all day. She said last week she was angry when she found out my aunt explained it all when I was eleven. “We tried so hard to protect you from all that.” We knew, we always knew. I don’t know if she remembers that the morning glories climbed the house. Every spring day we woke to the comforting coo of mourning doves, before we knew anything about doves or mourning.

Kathy Jennings, revised 2011  

How long can the moth flirt
near the mouth of the flame
before their lips touch
and the moth’s soul becomes like a sun.
— Meister Eckhart

She heard gibbous moon turn full.
She could hear anything.
Heard space snap shut.
No more separation.
No more illusion of division.
Wore the outside of her shirt
inside; heard out there was in here.
Answered unasked questions that hurt
How long can the moth flirt?

Don’t tell me he won’t be back.
He is here, and so is she.
They arrived together.
They’ll leave the same
way; if they leave at all.
They look at me too closely,
as if I were to blame
Not my fault, not mine.
All souls burn the same
near the mouth of the flame.

When he comes and she comes,
when they come together
together, forever, the old song,
she sings a full octave higher.
His notes unnaturally low.
There’s rhythm in each clutch.
I hear them bang and pound.
Maybe loving, maybe less.
Who can measure so much
before their lips touch.

Ask me what it is about.
And I will giggle in your face.
Flirt, flit, flittering flirt.
The embrace denied
before it’s begun.
A love that burns to die.
Almost gone, and then yes.
It all dissolves. It’s done.
And the moth’s soul becomes like a sun.
 — Kathy Jennings 2011

Deepwater Horizon

Thousands have lived without love. None without water. -- W.H. Auden

Tide pools empty then slowly fill, over
and over, this is one meaning of
always the same, ever changing.
Sea snail, limpets, tiny barnacles anchor
high on wet rocks. Anemones’ hairs
part in the cool ebb tides. Extreme
ebb tide leaves behind bright sea stars.
Coralline algae and scuplin fish make a briny salt tea,
the musk of shellfish in the sea spray.
Shore crabs and hermits skitter between
tenacious mussels and waving neon-green kelp.
To live is to avoid a bigger appetite, to survive crashing waves.

Deepwater Horizon. EIghtythree days. Five million barrels of oil. Eleven men dead. Seventeen injured. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, roughly 2,000 square miles smaller than they were 80 years ago. An enormous dead zone off the mouth of the Mississippi. What happened here, and where were you? Sunlight illuminates a lingering oil slick off the Mississippi Delta. Oil coats a barrier on the shoreline. High winds and waves cancel cleanup operations on the beach. The shape of the spill changes with weather conditions, currents, and oil-dispersing chemicals.We pray for our brothers and sisters in the Gulf, that they will not lose heart. The dolphins breathe oily fumes through their blowholes. They eat fish exposed to oil. Get oil in all their orifices. Are bathed in a continual soup of oil. There's nowhere to go to get away from it.  Death by oil is a horrible way to go. But it’s not just the oil. Trawlers scrape the sea floor like bulldozers, take everything in their path.  Millions of tons of plastic break into tiny pieces that find one another, create islands in the sea. Fish think the plastic is food. They eat it. Fishing nets discarded make an unintended catch. Clog the ocean, poison our life support. Break the food chains that shape a planet’s chemistry --the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the oxygen cycle, the water cycle, they all break down. Why did we never imagine that we could do anything to harm the ocean by what we put into it or by what we took out of it? How will we answer when tomorrows child asks: Why didn’t you save the sharks, the bluefin tuna, the squids, the coral reefs? While there still was time

There is no fishing off the pier today.
On the beach, no one but Coast Guard watchmen.
Gulls, terns, all the sodden shore birds take cover.
An icy wind whips water into a froth.
The waves toss, the gray sky explodes.
The line between sky and sea merges in the rain.
Water as an unstoppable power, strength without mercy.
The jetties wash away with each swell.
What once were landmarks are now under water.
The tide spills into the streets.
Sand bags shred, become one with wild water.
We could call the ocean angry as it batters the shoreline.
But this how a storm comes up, what it leaves behind.
 — Kathy Jennings 2011