Poems by Marie-Elizabeth Mali

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by Marie-Elizabeth Mali

From Canary Autumn 2009

Marie-Elizabeth lives on Manhattan schist between the East and Hudson rivers.

In this underwater world with its lobed and convoluted coral,
ferns that sway beside fields of garden eels, I float

toward a swath of barren coral, no fish around, and ask myself,
how long before this sand is all that’s left?

Back home, I clip lilacs, their scent diffusing through the room,
marvel at the first open peony, its heady perfume,

and decide to leave it in the garden with the irises and lilies,
all planted by the previous owners, his blindness—

second brain tumor at 36—forcing them to sell
the home they’d built to live in all their lives.

Most days I long for perfection, for everyone to be safe.
Maybe the only perfect thing in life is longing.

Praise this beautiful, terrible world where we are opened
and crushed, where the kiss comes from the mouth that bites.

Dragonface Pipefish

by Marie-Elizabeth Mali

From Canary Winter 2009-10

Two find each other and begin
       their dance, twining and swirling

snake-like, red snouts pointed
       at the sky. They twirl vertically

for hours, a slide-and-curl
       two-step. As they hover and spin,

the female pats eggs onto the male’s
       spotted belly. When they hatch,

the tiny pipes are on their own.
       Tell me what creature is too small

to matter, too small to dance out
       its wild love in the anonymous sea.

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