This week’s Deep Water features something very special: a praise poem created in community. “The Salt That Carries Us” was written collectively by many voices, as part of an event this past spring in Congress Square Park. At this gathering, created by the Friends of Congress Square, Friends of Casco Bay and Stonecoast’s low-residency MFA program, community members listened to poets read, then shared reflections on slips of paper. The poets then curated this collected language into the beautiful poem you’re about to read.

I love this poem’s range of tones and imagery, its candor and occasional humor, and above all its deep sense of reverence and care for the saltwater of our home.

 

The Salt That Carries Us

A poem created in community, in praise of the Casco Bay, curated by local poets Samaa Abdurraqib, Ben Boegehold, Cate Marvin and Mihku Paul.

Congress Square Park, Portland, Maine, May 17, 2021.

When I see a glistening light on the water, I think of a beautiful
fabric. I think of depths of the oceans and feel like a small human.

I am here because the bay is here. I am ready because the bay
is here and full. My world is bright and forever finding its level:

water is the taste of its temperature. When I see the ocean I think
of the space between.  I feel my heartstrings are pulling me close.

Because the bay is vast and welcoming. My world is aquamarine
because water is salted. Water is life because water surrounds

my world. When I see rain I think of its absence: the stone. When
I think of the stone, I feel like a shoreline receding under a wing.

I now see the verb’s gray end and think of who we didn’t know we
weren’t, the meanings we’ve coddled, I feel like rain letting down

the sky’s dark hair. I breath in deep the bay  flush with barberry
bushes. It blurs my vision. I think of squinting at the sun when

I think of falling asleep in the ocean.  I feel like dying. I am under
the blue sky because the bay is cradling a blue sea. its world is

kinder because water never cuts. Smile.  The bay is briny as we
pass it. Because water is currents with stories too large to tell

my world is struck with an imagination unfathomed. My words
are gather and rinse and spit because water is always reclaiming

itself. I am the ceramic basin that says good-bye because the bay
is calling its body back. When I see wind move through a field I see

possibility, When I see a little fish, I say, What’s up?  When I think
of nonfluency in fish language, I feel like enrolling in a fish university.

My world is the blue of half circles beside this square because water
is, yes, still alive for now. When I think of being small I feel like God

is alive, watching. I am dangerous because the bay is frozen. I am cold
because the bay is currents of icy water, and I am in it. I am Mohamed

because the bay is water. Seals basking on ledges, the bay is a catspaw
collection of ripples. This world is tenuous because water is betrayed

by us all. Water is Flint, Michigan. Clean water is a right for us all. I am
high-stepping because the bay is full of seaweed. There is a cormorant

swimming toward me, there is an osprey coming home.  Water is blue,
unlike saffron, the color of the sun. When I see the sea mirror the sun,

water is diamonds, I am human, I cannot forget: water is community.
When I see a drop of silver, blue, purple rain, I think of soft, feathery

Lupine flowers, and I think of all that has sunk below. We are here
a while longer. I think of all that floats, feel the salt that carries me.

 

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “The Salt That Carries Us,” copyright © 2021 by Stonecoast Low-Residency MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine, appears by permission of the licensor.


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