Ode to Fetal Sharks in Jars
Dakin misses the days when they sold the preserved
fetal sharks up and down the main drag. As a kid
he gazed for long stretches of time at dozens
of upturned faces in blue liquid – not in water,
not even close to being something of the body,
not even close to being something of the sea –
noses to the sky, without air, frowning.
Their wide eyes and undeveloped arms in permanent
surprise, grotesque and plastic.
Their solitude was his, too, when fewer people
peopled his streets, when space
existed and these tchotchkes dotted the state
straight up the panhandle in a line of citrus stand signs –
towering oranges eclipsing the sun and pineapples
made of metal and neon, their leaves great enough for osprey
to make nests in, and be left alone, mostly.
A map for sleepy summer drives in unbearable heat
straight down to the place of his birth,
a map he can’t travel now –
a quiet as hard to put a finger on as nostalgia.
Now, everywhere, there is noise.
Not the sound of sea. Not the sound of breeze.
Now, everywhere, there is the sound of bodies
never suspended for long and buildings always
building upward to get us all – everyone
who can possibly fit – closer to the sunset, the divine
and commercial sunset, more brilliantly red and pink
by the summer (and it’s always summer) day.
There used to be siestas.
And he remembers them.
In the afternoon, in August, his eyes surveyed the displays
of sharks that would always be young
and never be swimming.
The streets were emptied,
the storefronts cleared,
the men home in hammocks, their chests undressed
and bellies bared to the shade of the mango trees
and their leaves,
and they shook,
and you could hear them.
EMILY SCHULTEN is the author of Rest in Black Haw, and her poems appear in The Missouri Review, North American Review, Barrow Street, and Prairie Schooner. She is currently a professor of English & creative writing at The College of the Florida Keys.