Here at Women’s Voices, we set aside the Sundays of National Poetry Month for poetry organizations as well as for poems.

Today we bring you the finest examples of both. The Academy of American Poets celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.  There is no way of overestimating its contributions to our nation’s appreciation of poetry and the makers of poems.  One of the things they do best is “Poem-A-Day”—a subscription service that allows you to pause for original poetry each day of the year.

Today’s poem, by Marie-Elizabeth Mali, appeared as a Poem-A-Day offering on March 26.  It comes with Marie-Elizabeth’s statement about the inspiration for this work, allowing you to see her intimate relationship with the sea and her ability to imagine her way into its soul.


If the ocean had a mouth

I’d lean close, my ear
to her whisper and roar,
her tongue scattered
with stars.

She’d belt her brassy voice
over the waves’ backbeat.
No one sings better than her.

Would she ever bite
the inside of her cheek?

Would she yell at the moon
to quit tugging at her hem,
or would she whistle, drop
her blue dress and shimmy
through space to cleave
to that shimmer?

What did she mean to say
that morning she spit out
the emaciated whale
wearing a net for a corset?

All this emptying
on the sand. Eyeless
shrimp. Oiled pelicans.

Within her jaws the coral forests,
glittering fish, waves like teeth,
her hungry mortal brine.


About this poem:
“As an underwater photographer one of the things I love most about being in the ocean is interacting with a world that has nothing to do with me, a world with its own passions, social structures, dangers. The awareness that we humans are harming that world is always with me so I wondered what the ocean might say if given a chance.”—Marie-Elizabeth Mali


Copyright © 2014 by Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 26, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.


marie_elizabethMarie-Elizabeth Mali is the author of Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2011) and co-editor with Annie Finch of the anthology Villanelles (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets, 2012). Before receiving her MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, she practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Poet Lore, and RATTLE, among others.  

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