Poems by Meredith Ferrill

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Pacific Garbage Patch

by Meredith Ferrill

From Canary Spring 2015

Meredith lives two miles inland from the vast freshwater basin of Lake Michigan, which provides drinking water to millions, on the banks of the heavily polluted Chicago River.

In the daytime, I picture
ocean liners cutting through
the islands of plastic, scattering
neon wrappers and bottles floating
like uneaten Cheerios on the
cerulean skin of water, and
it all doesn’t bother me as much.

Under sunny skies, I imagine
scientists scooping samples from
the vast expanse of clipping waves,
gathering jars of milky debris
suspended in salt water.
I picture men and women in
broad-rimmed hats, swirling
the waste within the jars, piping out
eye-drop-sized amounts
to study later in their labs.

In my vision, there is so much
activity—marine life cut free from
synthetic rope, encrusted snails
rescued from their suction on
discarded soda cans. Men and
women holler to one another,
tossing back turtles they’ve un-
tangled. Engines roar as the
vessels start up, return to shore
with new knowledge.


But in the nighttime, lying awake,
I feel the Patch grow: bottles
swim across unwatched seas,
pulled by deep and swirling
currents, join the breathing mass.
En route, new recruits bob
and twist, gleaming against
the moon’s light like clear,
unclosable eyes.

At night, the Patch is alone,
unchecked as it swells, beating
its plastic heart, riding
the silent, moonlit tides
like seals come up for air.


Submerged bottle caps break
loose from the titanic
underbelly, and either sink
to the depths or are found
by brown pelicans coasting
through the indigo waters.

I see the birds peck
at lotion tops, their beaks
clamping on what
they think is food—
old contact cases,
toothpaste lids, ripped
take-out sacks
drifting just under
the dark waves.

What is mistaken
for prawn or
will live on
in the ribs
of the dead bird,
years after
feather and flesh
have decayed.

Still This Way

by Meredith Ferrill

From Canary Summer 2015

In a restaurant carved into the
craggy hills, sitting at a seaside

table, my mom and I looked down
over Vernazza, its mauve, pink,

and egg-shell blue buildings circling
the shore like painted teeth, its

electric tide throbbing up to sand,
splashing over black knobs of stone.

That morning, we had hiked from
Vernazza to Corniglia, leaving

the quiet village still ghosted with fog.
At noon, we had returned to find

the village ablaze with summer sun.
Admiring the beauty, we ate crawfish

from a steel pot, laughed and rested
our feet, tired from the climb. I still

picture it this way, Vernazza, the perfect
geometry of the cliffs, the joyful cries

of color, the mountain trails dusted
with white flowers. Even when I’ve

read of the storm, how the rain beat
on violently, sending trees, cars, lives

into the sea, even when I’ve seen
pictures of the devastation, the mud

waist-high, gumming the walkways,
waves quiet and opaque with debris,

streets buried and archways stuffed with
colorless sand, still, I see the place

as I saw it then, frozen in those safe
shards of memory, unblemished

and unscarred by the falling hills.

The Day We Toured Venice

by Meredith Ferrill

From Canary Summer 2015

The rain started within an hour
of our arrival in the painted city.

Clouds, colorless as steam,
blank as undrawn pages,

merged above clay-colored rooftops
and began spilling drops

over slick, sunken streets,
pelting the green, oily water

in heavy and refreshing streams.
This is not how we had hoped

to see Venice: Piazzas flooding
in stone-locked corners, abandoned

gondolas like burnt-black crescent
moons, moored to empty steps,

windows boarded, lonely canals
baptized and rising, water eating up

the sides of crumbling, pink walls,
walls already etched with lines of decay

showing where the water has been,
whispering where it will go.

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