(For Kim Wall, 1987-2017)
A flock of Siberian blue robins gathered
in the metal gut of the galley. The girl thought
now what have I got myself into.
The story started out easy. Everybody knows
the only way
to learn the language of the birds,
is to get deep, submerge, study Chinese.
But sailing’s third dimension is not so
silent. Everyone has something to say
She takes notes. It’s not just
the birds—other bodies move past,
make low language.
An albino lobster waits her turn, pressed
up against the porthole.
Floating just below the photic zone
she realizes: her craft has no crew.
Looks for an escape hatch.
She cuts her own.
Calls it: There’s no accounting
for alchemy. Grows gills like
an algal bloom, and swims out.
Sperm whales surround her,
Standing stones, clicking
like kids. A welcome, this
Saying, rest up—
we’re heading west.
Gnaomi Siemens holds an MFA from Columbia University’s School of The Arts in poetry and literary translation. Her words can be found at Asymptote, Words Without Borders, The Believer, Slice Magazine, Europe Now Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, Penny Thoughts (UK), and forthcoming in Ossian Magazine (UK), Brazenhead Review, and American Chordata. Her manuscript: “The Wife’s Lament: New Translations From Old English,” a selection of poems from The Exeter Book, is forthcoming and will be accompanied by prints by UK artist, Morag Eaton of Foldyard Gallery, Berwick-Upon-Tweed. She recently read from her translations at The British Library’s Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition in London, and was selected by The Poetry Society of New York for a residency at the iconic Mid-Manhattan branch of The New York Public Library for National Poetry Month 2019. She lives in New York City.