sporklet 16
Carolyn Oliver
The Holy Pines
Aeneid, Book IX

We never asked for more of the sea
than the air weighted with storm.


Soundless, we spoke through our fine net of roots
worked over centuries. Rain one tasted
strengthened another, we all breathed the delicate
spray of hare’s blood on snow, we felt
the weight of a wasps’ nest fall away.
We knew when our mother made
a deal with a hard-faced god to split,
slice, coat us in our sisters’ pitch.


Mighty and helpless we could not share
in our new voices of groan and creak
the sweep of seaweed or porpoise skin,
flicker of glass eels drifting home to rivers,
whims of the currents kissing our hulls.


We never asked for ornaments.
They gave us bronze prows.


Days half-buried in sand bought
moonlight body-shadowed or water-twisted
sunlight outsoaked by trickling red
from the wounded, mothers.


They meant fire for us, not lightning. But sound
broke us loose. All rockslide and rumble
we rushed deep into a darkness we knew,
and surfaced, limbed again, nymphs
lashed to our last voices.


We never asked for their ambrosia.
They fed us in our dreams. Call it drowning.


Ask the seabound silver eels, if you can find them:
gods refuse to stop transforming
their creatures and it is not what they say,
it is not being born again.


With our hot bronze eyes we searched out every sunken sister.
We burned them blue.
Then we wriggled our sleek lonely uncomplicated bodies
up the rivers almost reaching
the sky that crowns the mountains,

the groves who know how to live forever enough.

Carolyn Oliver’s poems have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Sixth Finch, Southern Indiana Review, Sugar House Review, FIELD, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry, and the Frank O’Hara Prize from the Worcester Review, where she now serves as a poetry editor. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Online: carolynoliver.net.