Adam Berlin

Shell

We’re staying at home.

We’re walking the hall.

We call them forced marches.

I hold my phone coccyx-level for my kid.

4000 steps (at least) per day.


We watch kid-cartoons of planets.

Tunes teach the solar system,

Eight planets with faces.

My son asks about Mercury having fun.


(my parents, I just remember now,

buy me an Oak Cone the color of butter,

sturdy, not striated, not the deadliest

at the shell store on Kalakaua Avenue

between Waikiki and Aloha shirts)


I don’t tell him it’s an easy rhyme.


There’s damage from circling and circling.

A 340-year-old red-eye storm on Jupiter.

Neptune’s storm-ominous blue.

And smoothing too,

Space chafing against mineral.


We forget. Like we forget gravity

Or the constant ocean.

Or open oysters, stretching abductors,

Singing in chains. 

Or the smooth underside-

blue of a mussel.


It’s become quieter at night,

Just a few sirens.

And darker at night.


The close-ups, artist-renderings really:

Like sea urchins with spines pressed to circles.

Like crowns with burst spikes (all) around

and multi-colored.


I don’t like taking my son outside.

Don’t touch, on this surface, it’s everywhere. 


Adam Berlin has published four novels, including Belmondo Style (winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Both Members of the Club (winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize), and the poetry collection The Standing Eight. He teaches writing at John Jay College /CUNY and co-edits the litmag J Journal.

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