Poetry at Sangam



MANATEES by Jon Davis

Manatees lounging in their underwater parlors,
drifting through the long afternoons, like women
in an impressionist painting—given a Sunday, given
flowers and a rowboat, tea and lace. Manatees
in their rough hides, floating slowly over the weedbeds—
like women in the park. Or like dirigibles
in photographs, drifting through a black and white sky,
drifting toward the inevitable lashing and tethering,
one century giving way to the next, drifting
made obsolete by the churning engines, the props
turning to turbines, the quickening also in the pulse,
in the body’s core, in the implicate order,
the human minds ticking in the shadows,
calculating, monitoring, the calculus of ardor
and need unscrolling into a world torqued by greed,
by cigarette boats cutting furrows in the shallows,
churning back to port, strafing the dreamy manatees,
the driver shaking his glass to cool the scotch,
the bikinied women, lovely now, lying on the deck,
lounging, turning brown and browner in the pitiless sun.