First the Word by Mara Lemanis

First the Word by Mara Lemanis 


First the Word 


First the Word

You say the word

to call up how

you heard it first;

I say the word

The Sea, I say

the sea, unfurling free

as though it is the air

turned upside down

circumference insatiable

plunged down to depths

mariners can’t probe;

We say what

we have heard

The Sea, we say

as though the word itself

will start a conversation;

You say it

and you bid

the sea to speak

it drinks our words

in with the tongues of

porpoises and whales,

intones the thrum

of gulls and cranes

scaling their tonic hum

above the waves…

I hear the sea

speak back

to me through

languid melts

of crystals

sinking into salt

the lisp of seaweed

the exhausted sighs

from dynasties

of wooden hulls

 surrendering to coral;

acrylic splinters

echoing the record

 of their fateful dive;

it is this deep

that speaks to us

through oxidating planks

and muted groans

 from buckled decks;

the ambient whir from

forests of kelp;

and plankton,


their bones,

the sibilant murmurs

of the dead;

the cries of glaciers

sweet-talked into

salty floes

to keep strict company

with the immortal


Again we call — 

Was first the word 

or was the sea already

waiting for our call…

Did we not hear

its first response —

that roar of waters

that lit  

the heavens in

 a jet of flame

titanic as a

mountain rising


a sunburst


inside the sea.

We called it forth

but it conceived us first

inside its deep,


Mara Lemanis