18 AUGUST, NEW ORLEANS AQUARIUM
by Mary Ryan Karnes

Must have been woman, the way she moved:
ascending, scraping surface with blunt gray head
and descending to wallow, make love to enclosure
floor. Swam to the side, waved fin as if to say
Follow Me. Untrained, simple, dirty.
Soft whiskered mouth, two pillowy flaps
on either side and penny-round nostrils
for breathing stiff public aquarium air.
The great tank of her body covered in
dirt—maybe dung or grime—dancing, dancing.
When we leave and entryways welcome echo,
she puts on a show for no one at all. I know
this to be true, saw it all, I think,
in the grace of the manatee.

 

 


 

 

Mary Ryan Karnes is a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi and a Hattiesburg native. She studies English and hopes to one day teach contemporary literature in a university setting.