Clade Song 9


      It ate the food it ne'er had eat, / And round and round it flew.
      Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Here is the dinner plate
with its tidy archipelago of food: peas not touching potatoes,
applesauce away from chop;

slender white porcelain rivers separate the edible islands.
Here is the wristwatch,
array of gears and jewels, wheels and screws, bezel and stem;

time deconstructed
on the jeweler’s workbench into its precise syntax of parts.
Here is the jigsaw puzzle,

the engine dismantled, the neat orthography of paragraph or palace.
Here is the albatross,
this disordered table of contents, not slimy squid, or fish eggs or crustaceans,

but jagged plastic,
quiver of arrows broken in the crop, persistent, sharp-edged, swallowed,
disguising hunger.

A clutch of one, plangent cry stoppered in the throat, beak silenced
by the terrible gyre.
Hold your arms wide, now you, beside, let your fingertips touch;

on these wide wings,
glide the circumference of the earth, browse the sea’s blue porcelain,
superlative bird.

A clutch of one, ruction of feathers ruined in a smorgasbord of death.
No metaphor,
the sum of these parts not greater but less, the addition a subtraction, a calculus of ruin.


Poem inspired by Laysan Albatross ~ moli ~ Phoebastria immutabilis (necropsy) and Contents of Laysan Albatross Stomach photographed by David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton.


A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, J.I. Kleinberg is co-editor of 56 Days of August (Five Oaks Press 2017) and Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington (Other Mind Press 2015) and co-produces the Bellingham-based SpeakEasy poetry series. Her poetry has appeared in One, Diagram, WA129, Otoliths, Raven Chronicles, Psaltery & Lyre, and elsewhere. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, and posts most days at and