In August, the summer grew hips. We dipped
our tongues into scoops of ice cream round as
the moon. You dug up a dead tree in the garden
to make room for new growth. The deeper you dug,
the more alive the tree revealed itself to be.
Hacked limbs and leaves poked up from the green bin
like sharp far-off peaks, while a line of ants
ransacked our rotting wood fence for termite larvae.
The dogged stump seeped red sap as you chopped.
Despite the tree’s clear will to carry on, it was simply
too late to turn back. You leveraged your entire body
to crack the trunk at its base, offing any opportunity
for survival. The failed tree looked dental—
a pale tooth yanked, too soon, at the roots.
A crowd gathers
to watch the injured seal
flail in the shallows,
her soft body beached
then tugged back by tide
again and again.
Hollow lobsters stud
the shoreline, left
to be pecked
by swarms of flies.
We run nude
into the water, stub
our toes on rocks
hidden beneath the murk,
our different-sized breasts
trotting with us
like children brought along
on Sunday errands. Out of respect,
we keep our eyes above
the surface, try not to stare
at the pinks or tender
reds. Try not to gawk
at her left fin bitten
down to the hot white
bone. Try not to touch
the sea anemone.
If probed, she will shut
you out like a teen,
offering you nothing
of what’s inside.
V. Batyko is a poet from Los Angeles, California. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Columbia Journal, Fugue, The Shore Poetry, The Journal, and more. They earned a BA in English from the University of Southern California and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. They are the recipient of the Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award and the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize. They currently live in Los Angeles.