NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD

D.A. Powell


cancer inside a little sea


for the rivers, draining toward the coast, carry such silt

and the red mangrove, entwining root with excrescent root

prospers its mighty nation—bubbleshell, jingleshell, rotting chips


the flecks of understory leaves, crud and algae, scum—

like a submerged derrick, its network of cables impenetrable

and profuse, the trees knot and twist, trap the water’s swill

a ratsnake in the branches, girding the lowest bough

and the strangler fig constricting trunk to trunk, arterial mass

wrapped over, in the insidious embrace of virginia creeper




what has been garnered of this wetland except the twigs

organic and inorganic mud, quartz-rich and mercury-laden

the accumulation of contaminants, cadmium, diquat, toxaphene




and always, the sandbars eroding at the periphery

where freshwater meets saltwater, and sawgrass swamp

drains into estuaries and bay.    and always the balance


upset, as herbicides eradicate cat’s claw vine

which has choked out carrotwood, which has displaced cypress

and the sea absorbs the toxins and eliminated matter


what does it matter now, what is self, what is self, what is I, who gets to speak

or who does not speak, whether the poems get written

whether the reader receives them whole, in part or not at all




child to come, what will you make of this scratched paradise

this receptacle of soil, water, seed, bee floating scat and spore

brutal wind and brutal tide.    the insignificance of fortunes


D.A. Powell is the author of four books of poetry, Tea, Lunch, Cocktails, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award, and Chronic, which received the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Award and the Northern California Book Award in Poetry. He teaches at the University of San Francisco.

"cancer inside a little sea" is reprinted from Chronic, by D.A. Powell, copyright 2009 by D.A. Powell. Presented here by permission of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.

D.A. Powell will read from his poetry in the 3:00 hour at the Watershed Poetry Festival, October 1, noon-4:30, at Berkeley's Civic Center Park.

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