by Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis
The ones Noah forgot, those poor swimmers
God-fearing ghosts on three legs left sinking
in their own faithless tides. The lungfish
were the last to go. Winded from the flood,
breathless from gossip of someday oil spills,
underwater politics, the coming world; tired
of the swim, they made it to the ark,
to its crowded on-board aquarium just in time.
But the others were denied their passage,
littering the shore like so many
Penelopes and Ariadnes.
I’ll return for you, Noah told them,
Wait there on the other bank, I’ll be back.
Noah of the nameless wife, who could believe him?
But they did, and they waited. Waited
until their coats grew matted and frayed, until
the sea became all, overpowering, supreme:
water floor, water ceiling, water walls.
Until their lungs deluged, burst open, collapsed.
(Assuming they had pelts
and lungs and hearts, way back then).
And Noah? He was just another hero,
a floating saint with places to go.
Some say they were the loveliest
feathers, leopard-spotted fins, snowy fur
on their underbellies, jeweled azure eyes.
Others claim the beasts were to blame
too graceful, too leisurely. Taking their sweet time
and drinking iced coffees with the angels,
reciting poems to the stately gazelles
(who left rudely at Noah’s first trumpeting call).
These refined beasts were in no hurry to catch the fleeing ark.
The lost creatures denied
their passage. Always other, always animal.
You can wait, Noah said.
So they did. Swallowed by the storm, suppose
they saw grand things—the throat of the seas,
the underside of an old world and more.
Still, they were left behind.
Rumor has it seven mosquitoes boarded that day,
uninvited, no less; while the other animals
drank the ocean, all seven seas, bits of sky,
maybe more. Call it hearsay, unwritten
history, a last wish, a lie.
That story went down with the old sins
and the olive tree (minus one branch, one dove).
How does it matter now? So many wives’
tales later, rotten apples, borrowed
ribs, snakes in trees, gaps
in the telling and retelling