Elizabeth Helen Barbato


for Stevie when he was in grade six

You failed last year's assignment
because your ocean was the wrong color,
and I told you that was poetry.
What I meant, really, was that
if there were a way to color in
oceans, which never stop moving,
which have thoughts bigger even
than the whales that comb their strands,
thoughts scaling back to Pangaea,
when Africa was next to New Jersey,
and we could have taken a field trip
to the veldt instead of being bored
at the Newark Museum—thoughts we feel
as a generous shove of shoulder
offshore, dangling our feet just where
the lighter blue begins to darken,
its pitch deepening, and we shiver,
fearing we don't speak sea-language:

If, I say, it were true that such a color—
whatever it is, some hybrid of seaweed girls,
mollusk ghosts, the harps of leftover shark
cartilage, the slow coral decomposition,
the sharp lava rifting, challenging the crust,
waving hello to the mantle—if such a color
did exist, and we could get it wrong, as if
that sea didn't sing in our own blood,
the maps in the world, including
the one you failed, would rebel,
would curl like giant shavings
off the UN, off gas stations,
off terrorist caves, off subway cars,
and even off classroom walls,
they'd just roll themselves up, so
tightly that teachers like that couldn't
get to them, or to you, for that matter.

Originally from New England, Elizabeth Barbato has taught English, music, and drama to every grade from kindergarten through high school seniors over the past fourteen years. She has spent recent summers completing my doctoral degree, traveling in the highlands of Scotland researching Macbeth, and living on the New Haven River in Vermont, fishing/working on my dissertation. In the summer of 2007 she was scheduled to cruise to the Galapagos to investigate the Darwin/Vonnegut connection.



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