Two Poems

By Haines Whitacre

Sonnet as Oyster Farm

The waterman—at dawn becoming
dregs of algae blooms
while line deposits
hand over hand its hypoxic haul—
shuttles shellfish off this brackish basin
into ice baskets crowned
in de-spat’d dozens,
bivalve-filters made precious by the acre.
What delicacy we trained our tongues—
us, hungry with the check covered—
to pearl from habitat & slurp
a taste for alkalines as water column
fills with plankton, blots out the sun,
belly-up, the fish-rot left to trade winds.

       for Frederick Olmsted*
When do you enter the Arboretum?
Car parked, bark confirmed
along with property lines
by a laminate plaque
life-giving in the Latin, drained
in the prongs of holly
holding amidst berries the shed
of arranged living
collections, leaves
like moth wings suspended,
dying in taxonomic array.
Fingers rub on the sharp end
of a cheese knife, at the gift shop
where his designs, described
as acquisition, cannot accommodate
through the sequence of print,
complex relations requiring
some tender species be
sited elsewhere. Skin breaks
like a car alarm lifting
crows off these trees,
& this poem, it is for the trees.

*With gratitude to the research of Scot Medbury, published in the article “Taxonomy and Arboretum Design.” Arnoldia, vol. 53, no. 3, 1993, pp. 13-23.

Haines Whitacre is a poet and teacher living on unceded Duwamish & Coast Salish land also known as Seattle. They are the author of Accounts of Wreckage (Winter Texts) and Ali Mapu (Edipos Editorial) and have had poems appear in New Limestone Review, Pinky Thinker Press Atticus Review, and Vinyl Poetry & Prose, amongst others. When they aren’t writing, they’re probably eating or on a walk.