David Hickey

Channel Markers

Never float up from underwater shipyards
     where lost deckhands are
hammering a new sky; are neither copper islands
     or rusted moons, the muted
bells of flooded monasteries, Christmas ornaments
     or fallen space
capsules, pteragon shells or petrified mammals
     tied by chain.
They offer little more than highway
     signs, a tip and nod to passing boats:
a starboard red, an outgoing
     green, their bodies the aftermath of gulls.
Once, though, like a cork lost in a milk bottle,
     I stood at the bottom of one,
the marker sawed in half and planted in a backyard
     garden, cleaning the metal sides
while goldfish woke around my ankles.
     I watched as each one arrived from hibernation;
a dozen orange leaves
     blown clear of the spring snow,
they travelled back and forth
     as though they had not spent winter
along the marker’s bottom, but were emerging
     from another body
of water, swimming up now through
     the open buoy, which felt like a hole in the sea.

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