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[Poetry] Five Poems by Kate Kobosko

Not Her Ocean --National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD The escalator hums rubber beneath her as she ascends to the second floor: touch pool, coral tanks. Above hangs the exposed skeleton of a finback whale—its great skull floating, its spine a syncopated wave of vertebrae: a body paused in motion, propelling itself along cavernous hallway ceiling. The ribs look brown in soft light, the jaw closed with bones long and dark as ancient oak limbs. When she looks below, into the predator exhibit, the water glitters pity. A shiver of large fish with skin like copper fog exhaust the same circles. She knows they must maintain momentum, keep water sliding through slitted gills just to survive—forget outlasting.

Tarpon Springs, Florida

This coast belongs to the almost home. The Anclote River is green, the shade of blooming algae in the sun. Buildings are washed white, dome-capped, fitted with portrait windows. Sponge divers hunch over dock pilings like laundry dropped from a clothesline, landing in long, thin knots. The hardscaped road is wary of humidity and the imitative architecture.

Men in rubber sandals, pocketed beige shirts, and transition lenses move with the shade, repositioning their chairs as the afternoon extends. By evening, they will be hidden.

The bakery on the corner churns out fresh baklava every hour and the sugar dispels into salt air like candied cotton on a warm tongue. Smell caramelizes the afternoon. Sponges dry, caught in blue fishing net, threatening escape. They burst through the pores of the mesh, hoisted by rusting cranes. The Mediterranean, blue and royal, beckons East.

Tropical Fish, Aisle Seven The pet shop is alight with them like woodland floor fungus under a rotting log, like evolution stopped right in its own forbidden sneakered steps. Survival as impulse, they multiply beneath the fluorescents, signifying a shallow piece of ocean personified, but it comes out wrong— kitschy and unkind. Some float to the surface accidently, their internal buoys malfunctioning or else trying escape. When a uniformed employee scoops with a net, I look away. I hear the stretch of plastic as he adds oxygen, ties the bundle tight. I wonder about the journey to the next tank, how a car ride may jolt a deep collective conscious. Does travel feel like a current passing or a steepening wave? Maybe, migration toward something better?

FRINGE HOUSE—FOR RENT advertising itself in squared-off red paint letters, made thick with a wide bristle brush. This home wedged between black sand

beach and thick jungle canopy. Howler monkeys screech behind the back gate, unforgiving rip currents sing baritone across a pocked path to the sea. I let myself imagine staying: quiet Costa Rica, no two lane roads, no Wifi, no freezers. I would pick ripe bananas and starfruit from the undergrowth that lines the yard with accidental edible blooms. The world would start early, taste of new weather like damp nickel on the tongue. And the storms would smell of gravel doused in rain, the singe of rock after a day this close to the equator, where the earth rotates fastest.

The Space Coast is otherworldly—waves like craters steep, hollow, dropping. A sea heaving itself into glass mountains. Giants on fiberglass glide like mercury past me, shelving ocean in their wake, distilling salt in clouds as wax clots on my board, deflecting water. Below, my ankles rotate against the current, turning me to empty shoreline. A warm, vacant morning: too early for sunning tourists. It seems the only bodies in Cocoa Beach proper are on boards today. This block of ocean is mine, except the Blacktips that slow weave underfoot and inject me with a fear that indents my breath, a knowledge awful as a fault line: we are never alone.

Kate Kobosko earned her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College and has an undergraduate degree from Eckerd College. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Autofocus, Humana Obscura, Oakland Review, and others. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where she teaches elementary school.

1 Comment

Lush and lyrical work—loved your imagery and emotion.

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