FEEDING WITH THE WHALE SHARKS
“You touch, and they dive to the bottom.
The skin feels like this.”
Mario slaps the nonslip gunwale. “Sandpaper.
Now you know, you don’t need to touch.”
No problem, I think, then plunge,
miles from the Yucatan and its ruined cities,
into a blue sea hazed green with a sort of orange puree.
Ghostlike the sharks (the size of the flimsy boat)
emerge, then ghostlike vanish.
Dominoes, the locals call them.
Submarines, maybe, in domino-camo. …
It’s harder than I thought, maintaining distance.
One swims towards me, veers past,
remoras clinging to snout, fin, belly.
Its spots spell out a name, a story.
I kick hard to catch up, my hands reach;
I’m driven to read.
The fish, Buick-grille mouth inhaling plankton,
the fish goes about its business.
Perhaps they hungered as I do,
the ancient ones of Chauvet, Lascaux, Altamira,
when, submerged in the otherworld of caves,
they felt pulled toward the impossible skin of the stone.
Palms flat, palpating the wall’s membrane
for shoulder of bison,
horn of ibex, haunch of cave bear,
they knew what I am only now learning—
the one language, a language of signs,
to tell by hand of this longing.
It took charcoal and hand-bloodying ochre
to midwife deer and mammoth, horse and lion.
And the rock remembered. …
Our species—no sooner birthed than left to ourselves,
to our own imaginations.
The fish in my dreams keeps the shape of my hands.
Palms working across gill slits,
down the vast ridged arc of the whale shark’s flank,
I feed myself the gritty Braille of the spots.
I sucker on; we circumnavigate the world.
I read to fathom that unbroken life.