Full fathom five.
Rosamond S. King divines the skeletal patterns of corals, in “Sea Garden”, a brief poem full of the rich, and strange. The poet doesn’t lean on The Tempest to populate her underwater realm. Rather, she signals the sea change within the sea itself: how sand itself can be made of coral and bone, how beneath the inky envelope of the ocean surface, life roils and teems — life, and its vibrant opposite.
The poem draws on families of coral, beginning with alcyonium digitatum, dead man’s fingers. Deceptively simple, we read of coral lineages, of the homes of fish, and these clear, vitreous images yoke us like sargasso, til we find ourselves by poem’s end on the floorbed of the sea. Such is the progression of the poem, which mounts in us like the graceful, deliberate pressure of water.
Yes, the poem concludes by telling us what we can see from the surface, but which one? It is possible to be at the top of the world from the bottom of the sea, after all. In this short terrain-unsettlement of verse, that couples bone and anemone, that considers for us the composite matter of earth, wrought by geology, engineering and mystery, we do not suffer sea changes: we are re[de]boned by them.
I tilt my chin to the port of call King’s poems provide for precisely this: a renegotiation of what I think I understand about ocean, about destabilizing complacency, about how you sing the body through tide and brine and the radiant symmetry of polyps, uniting.
Another ocean poem, you think, I’ve been there. No. Not this ocean. Not this convergence of sight, density, and conjure. Every seabed is a graveyard and a cradle. Every coral reef a natal bed, and an antechamber for the dead. Submerge.
This is the sixteenth installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.