These were the Galapagos where
evolution happened in a nutshell.
During their honeymoon my parents-to-be
were told not to bring sand from island
to island; not to bridge protected storylines
with their incoherent skins.
In the channel between Plaza Sur and Plaza Norte
my not-yet mother took to swimming with sea lions,
guides checking for pebbles in her socks.
One’s bland Tuesday was another’s time extraordinaire.
Before another life was sliced open,
her lips were cracked for days by salt.
When they left these oceanic pebbles to return
to their city tundra – when they declared this
beginning done and dusted –
there would be no proof between their toes.
In the emerald green between islands:
sea lions used her legs as a tunnel,
chuckling away at the way
we keep dividing things.
A Shetland Diary on Three Mainlands
Routines wail most sharply when they’re broken. Like when you and I
are woken up with a trip to Mousa. Just like that – the island so close,
the know-how peeled off on everyday land.
My upper body is bulky with the expectation of cold, but the birders' arms
bend with the weather of comings. If something hits their heads
they have a hat for each of its names.
Of course we came to lose the musts that milk our cheeks. We came
to strip down to function, and there are of course reasons why the birds
can’t stop being written about.
This cottage is tattooed with flowers: stems as old as grandmothers,
and carpets as made up as their spinster granddaughters when
a word like spinster was used.
I imagine living here, hearing wings flap with an accent that never is
what the accent reminds me of. Without reference points all maps lose their voice.
Now a friend lives here. I suspect we both admire how well he wears his aloneness,
how high up one can send a breath.
I talked so much about ponies,
that it took two days to spot one.
Rumour has it that they bite but these dream, like the fog came in to role-play
and they stepped out of themselves. This or that could be
Play me: I am more or less myself.
We succeeded in ID-ing a whale today.
How many starlings have spotted us, without getting the gist of us?
Families. Flocks of us.
This was an island only because we named ourselves Mainlands.
The bites of growing and disowning share a tooth’s root, and you are always
your most painful mainland.
Eddies heave like pony punk-curls and the lather highway
drains a flock from its long-term memory,
opening a gateway to elsewhere.
Originally from Sweden and Colombia, Jessica Johannesson Gaitán has spent the last few years in Edinburgh, and is about to move to Bath. Her fiction and poetry has previously appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Stinging Fly, Ink Sweat & Tears, Structo and Brittle Star among other publications. She and her partner run the website www.therookeryinthebookery.org, championing fiction and poetry in translation.
Photograph: pantxorama, CC 2.0.