Pale syllables drift
through the ear, reticulate
and mercurial

as moonlight’s ladder
glitching across the water:
skeletal rigging

of a doomed schooner
crewed by the damned, the phantom
lace of mermaids who

have evanesced to
bone-white spindrift, foam
scudding leeward; un-

canny descant of
whales braiding down the spiral
Fibonacci stair-

case of the hollowed
nautilus; sea dingle of
the eldritch sea witch,

her garden of stings
and fleshy polyps crisscrossed
with neon wiggles,

the trireme’s open
rib cage spilling amphorae
checkered with coin light;

or do they involve,
instead, the waterlogged souls
of drowned migrants locked

in the rust bucket’s
vomitous hold—mothers and
minors, cohort of

held for ransom by smugglers
till families paid

four thousand a head
for their sons’ passage to no-
where, the deepest trench

off sandy Pylos,
to be chum, sea-worm mumbled,
queasy shades thridding

wakes of superyachts
and ferryboats sardined with
red blistered tourists?

Yet they’re real: frayed webs
of nylon filaments cut
loose to sleepwalk like

zombies through the seas
snaring loggerhead turtles,
dolphins, birds, squid, fish,

claws, scales, cartilage,
ghastly trash. What’s ghosted is
the future: oceans

of unlife, grimed and
slimy, starved, hypoxic, bath-
water warm. Drastic

measures are needed,
they’ve been saying, as long as
I can remember,

making their plastic
promises. It went sour in
my lifetime, children:

something untangles
and comes undone, but not the

mesh of permanent slaughter.
We watched it happen.