-Sea is not the word for desire-

is what goes in the pot,
with mirepoix and bay,
jagged is how the dull blade
of thunder tears the sky of rain,
despair is not the word for salt,
blood is not the taste of sea,
scar is not the word for sunset.
of past better than any stone
or upturned bowl
for sharpening, cutting
is not the word for knife,
laceration is not the word for suture,
self inflicted is carved in bone.
Here on the creek, iron pot on the fire,
skiff pulled up beneath buttonwood,
shed roof rusted out, sturdy patch of shade,
we burn driftwood to soothe the night,
as sky sheds azure, opening to all our songs,
of starlight and smoke.
wind soused, sleeping in the language of tide,
speaking from the inward curl of whelk,
reciting all the innermost names still unchosen.
You promise to fill the emptiness of my hands,
you say this form
is the form you have always loved,
you say the emptiness of my eyes
is the endless fetch of waves from the Middle Ground.
is the weather of our beginnings,
coral is the accretion of all we endure,
fire is the element we have nourished ,
we enter the water, we swim as if pelagic ,
we know the current of longing
we resist the shore, returning with tide,
you gather what the Gulf has rolled
into the sand, we stand facing wind,
as if anguish was a flavor never tasted,
as if bitter were no more than salt,
words you pour into my hands being drifts of delicate shells,
wave polished strands
sun glittering, all our horizons
water bound, all our songs
smoke, shell and starlight,
slow cadence of waves,
echoing in the mouth of wind,
mangrove blazing with birdsong
and plumage

-When you sleep without pain-

Light lies dusty
in the road, as mourning doves
summon sunrise, still a spilled candle
smoking on the horizon,

so many small birds
flower in our mouths,
a wind of railroad vine
blanket flower rattles cabbage palms.

Sky empty as lightning whelks
sun bleached, sands
gathered, poured
into jars, azure hammered

thin as foil, moon
of broken sand dollar
dim, distant.
Day gathers momentum,

you hold this form as if warmth
was a garment shared between us
as if pain was not stitched
into your breathing
as if today implies tomorrow
or conch held the sound of sea,
always the sea,each wave a text

song unfolded from hands
taking flight then vanishing
tide abandons creek
tide abandons mangrove

we stand derelict, waterless,
darkness of eyes, darkness of clouds
flowing off the Gulf,
lamps will not light this place

as cerulean yields to burgundy
as night folds us into velvet,
when we sleep
you sometimes hold my hand

as if to keep me from floating
away on a current felt but unseen,
sometimes the simplest touch
is all we have,

the smallest flower
all the vine can sustain
the smallest word
uttered in darkness

-Naming is not ownership-

My mother will never
call me daughter, dead name
stitched to living flesh,
there never was a father,
just an accident report,
black and white photograph

Sky scoured cloudless
wind uncoils, loping across waves
with long strides of a bobcat
anxious for shade in the tangle
of fox vines dropped
from cabbage palms and oak

We share shadow
absence stalks our days,
as dry season shifts to wet
cumulus proofs over inland heat,
footprints, no longer visible, trail
away into scrub, sand and palmetto

Sea assembles waves
beyond arc of horizon,
Moon pulls tide
into the embrace of mangrove,
our feet sink into sand and shell,
small birds sort wrack line

This form is water made word
this form is flesh made wave,
ghost made smoke, a burning
banked up in ash, left for the morrow

Balancing contradiction
easier burden than what you dead name
which is already gone, what you name dead,
so much ash taking shape as absence,
when you press your ear
to the shell it is not the sea
but your own emptiness coiling into conch

The question, loaded on a scow
of burdens, makes port,
“When did you know?”
As if knowing could be uttered
over whetstone, slurring its song
as if knowing was a certainty,
a passport through shadow
and streetlamp, not another false moon
moths circle to exhaustion,
not another blade of hibiscus flowering

-Absence is a wind-

What we hold, what we burn,
as trowel is not shovel, fingernail is not bone,
a more delicate excavation
than armadillo rooting around in flesh,
the interior landscape bleeds out
with each incision, lacerations a binding
over time, relentless flowering, wet season
dry season, forgetting, remembrance,
there is no consolation in the ash
of words blowing from our lips

weight of blade is word not yet released by tongue
lingering behind pale of teeth,
lips dry as remorse, languid blooming,
so many wounds dropping petals
a garden relentless in the golden light of loss, emptiness
coils into the shell of ear, what remains unspoken,
heavier than all cutting, edge balanced on breath,
ground against the whetstone of fluidity by hand and eye,
splintered fingers of kindling
and the hard inhalation of ignition

a skink, sleek and lithe
flips over leaves at the tent wall,
a tarp is not a roof, a membrane,
a skin of habitation, stretched
on the edge of wind, on the lip of sea,
this language of waves spoken in sleep
without word for departure, only return
in all its variations, as shell does not
depart the conch, as sound returns to sea
as flame is tree returning to air

What we burn, trunk and limb
is the self of flat woods and palmetto,
where we abandoned sand and shade,
moss and oak, where we embraced
the hard margin of mangrove,
the curving cries of gulls, wind
taut and wave burnished, we remain
only as cinders, glass not yet returned
to sand, lightning yet unspooled from tongue.


Weather of sorrows sluiced out
amongst cabbage palms, washing
sand white, the place within the bone,
sinews of wind taut amongst pines,
the shaggy crowns of palmetto
unbowed by supplication or day,
burnished, heavy as bronze or cries of gulls,
we alternate with insomnia, we turn
from sleep as egg cracks into skillet,
smoking mirror of necessity.

Our names never appear in cartography of lace,
or ruffled edges of cutting that healed into a glyph
of stone and feather, we are strangers in the mother tongue.
Coiled in uncanny definitions, insomnia is the cloak of day,
if we do not sleep, we do not dream,
if we do not dream we are but birdsong
in the mouth of wind, ash blown out to sea,
rendered nameless by heavy hands of habitation,
nomadic, another revelation of marrow
cracked open to sky, a burning not yet consumed

To remain visible requires intention, you fill my pockets with shells
as black skimmers unstitch wind,
what we have been given lies on the back of a long wave
rolling out of the Gulf, as clouds shade mangrove,
spoonbill stand incandescent, ruffled fragments of sunrise,
when you stand behind me at the stove, skillet shimmering,
your hands on my belly, saying the small words heavier than sea,
breathing my name, breathing like waves,
fetch is the distance between thought and tongue,
circumference is the measure of your embrace.

-Further Shore-

Hands of smoke
chert words flaking
from the tongue, gritty
against the pale teeth.
Hands of splitting
our days growing ever narrower
this is the form
whittled from driftwood
and left at the tide mark,
eyes of shell
hair of grass
so much that is brittle
manifests in flesh
sinew and gristle.
We return to the fluid
we return to the salt
there is a window in the mouth
where sea remains visible
curling along the tongue,
waves steadily eroding
the old form, subsidence
being a return to the greater body,
conch and whelk
so many shells buried
in the turtle grass of our sleep.
There is a current
the cownose rays ride
by the thousands, a vast
migration of necessity
from the further shore
undulating and rhythmic,
there is such a journey
buried beneath the sternum
to traverse the coast
with no horizon in the eye
to swim and seek
to arrive without harm
to carry some love
from there to here
to redeem the smallest of words
to fill such emptiness
that would deny
that we are
such as we are.

-Transitional landscape-

Echoing darkness
echoing absence,
my shin split open
climbing the water tower,
from this elevation night
stretches out, Gulf without horizon, darker than blood
in my sneaker,
looking over the railing, wind in my hair,
ready to glide into the pine tops, but for gravity.
Sometimes we would stand
at the tide mark
feeling the same summoning
of weight, of the fall
through spectrum into lightless
depths. We learned
to carry grief like a blade,
grasp it by the spine, thumb
on the handle, carry anger
with our dry towels,
stack our prayers with fatwood of remorse,
a crib of kindling,
let cloud and osprey decipher that smoke.
We learned to name our scars
after rivers and creeks,
delicate cartography of sorrow,
we learned to navigate without compass or clock.
We received the winter birds,
nailed together a skiff
to carry us up the coast,
abandoned habitation,
lived with the herons and egrets,
filled insomnia with wind, star
and salt marsh, memorized
oyster beds, recited the litany
of tides, forgot roof and door,
forgot even our innermost names,
held all our conversation with waves and the small crabs
amongst the shells, the estuary
allows that space,
the edge of descent, the swallowing current,
the dissipation of old certainties,
the creation of new land, soggy
midge ridden, mosquito filled,
there can be no departure
from such a place, your absence
a chart marker of the immensity
of such a tiny world, of the narrow space
between wind and darkness.


Peach Delphine is a queer poet from Tampa, Florida. Infatuated with what remains of the undeveloped Gulf coast. Struggling with social isolation the consequences of the Pandemic. Caretaker. Has appeared in IceFloe Press, Feral Poetry, Fevers of the Mind, Mineral Lit, Petrichor Journal, Cypress Literary Journal.

Port Richey, Florida

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Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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