Coastal Poems

TWO POEMS by Caitlin Plunkett

BIG MOOSE LAKE

As I lay in the kayak chamber
a pike hovers over the length

of my arm, the bullheads
brush my thighs with their
whiskers, they say

Blessed is the pencil lead
you have carried in your flesh.

As I lay in the sunken
cavity, I let in the cold
lake water

until my ears are full
and the dock above

no longer groans.
Blessed are these sunfish,
that sing and

scar my shins.
I give this fiberglass belly,

I give this polymer-
coated vessel, I give the blood
from this cold body,

and scars that ruin
my back’s bluing expiration.

The scales in my bones
from fishing here, I now
give back, O Lake.

~~~~~~~~~~

DOWN IN THE LOWCOUNTRY

I grew up down in the Lowcountry,
born in an open-gut kayak, and my
father, he would tell me names of
all the creatures of creek and sound.

He could identify each egret by the flow
of its shadow over the deck of his shrimp
crawler, and often reminded me that they
were hunting sea slugs in the oyster beds.

I loved island storms, and my father, he
took me to a clearing where lightning
made the saltwater mullets in Skull Creek
flop like skipping stones in the moonlight.

It would strike the ground and everything
would change, I could jump higher, my
blood ran faster, and I could hear the sea
slugs chirping at the greedy turnstones.

They sang with the oysters at low tide
and whispered with the sand pipers, but
were quiet when a great blue heron would
pass overhead, in awe, Neptune of the sky.

I heard and knew all of this from my
father’s clearing, where my nose once
bled so red after a lightning strike, that
a brown pelican offered me its fish.

~~~~~~~~~~

STATEMENT

The resilience of nature never ceases to astound me.  It makes me wonder if the ecosystems of this planet are specifically hardwired to endure and bounce back from whatever humanity throws their way.  The environment is a writing-well I am constantly drawing from.  I have tried to “write it out.”  I live in the fourth largest city in the United States and all I care to write poems about these days are beach trees, or Great Blue Herons, or the lake where I spent many childhood summers.  But in my head, everything is pristine and sacred.  The tree is not being washed away into the ocean because of erosion, my heron is not suffocating in oil, and Big Moose Lake does not suffer from acid rain.  I have tried to write the truth but I cannot bear to.  Maybe this is my way of reminding people that we live on a complex and beautiful planet that should not be taken for granted.

~~~~~~~~~~

My name is Caitlin Plunkett and I am a second year MFA student at the University of Houston.  I am originally from Virginia.  I used to be able to look off my front porch and see the sun setting over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I spent four years in Southwestern Virgina while I was attending Virginia Tech for my undergraduate studies.  I took for granted that I could hike in the Appalachian Mountains whenever I wanted.  I am not as familiar with the Gulf Coast as I am with the East.  I find myself continuously–obsessively–drawing upon my experiences in the natural world for my poems, despite living in the 4th largest city in the U.S.

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