Poem | Otter

Sea otter, walking on land (bottom), sea otter, swimming on its back (top). Illustration from Georg Wilhelm Stellero (1751)


I shine like a hairless fish,
or a tongue, but this is my pelt,
enclosing a secret’s cunning—
winters in dark surf have given me
the silhouette of a wave rising
or just-spent, and the cold ocean
utters me like a whisper.
                        The sand-shark
cannot catch me. The rip-fanged moray
I leave behind, and your gaze, too,
is always tardy as you call

to your companions, aim the camera,
steady the binoculars for
another look. In my
better-than-hands the stone-shelled
molluscis a morsel, and I pluck the flashing sand-dab
from her fathoms. I’m that name
you can’t remember, the language you forgot,
the hope you knew would never come,
tide departing to return.

Published in the April 13, 2018 issue: 

Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books, including the National Book Award Finalist novel The Book of the Lion. His most recent book of poetry, Kingdom, includes many poems that first appeared in Commonweal. He is working on a new book of poems, The Promised Rain. He lives in Albany, California.

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Two Poems by Michael Cadnum

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