“The Spinning Place” by Chelsea Wagenaar


They billow up from warm estuarial waters,
          blooming toward that brilliant, ever-shattering pane.
So many manatees—the ones that are left—
          already bear the marks of this collision, the touching
of one world to another. Water to sky. Vault to vault.
          The elephantine skin of their backs
is slashed and hatched, indelible history
          of what it takes to breathe. They billow up

toward shifting islands of shade: boats hover
          on the face of the deep, indistinguishable from cloud shadow.
There, carving water from water, propellers spin
          and do not flinch from flesh. But the creature’s need
can be met only where two worlds meet,
          at the bright seam that holds them together
and apart. So gored, bleeding, they descend again,
          lungs full, with breath enough in their wounds to sing.