Home > Poetry > Wattenmeer Means Cottonsea
Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
Wattenmeer Means Cottonsea

The water eddied and pooled, and nothing
on the horizon but a thick sky with no sun
and the sloshing wind. We’d left the pier
maybe an hour before, and our guide
walked us by boats beached by the docks, brooms
three meters high so we could race the tide
five flat miles to the island’s low dunes.
Our legs were coated in a fine, gray mud,
it was under our nails, and we stopped
to look at small, black shells, tiny worms,
and plants that would turn red in fall and whose name
means melting glass. You said how easy
it would be to get turned around, yes,
and how easy to stay, to go into a place
that only comes out with the tide, be dragged
into a word so that grass is roaring coal
and flowers are clocks of sand, to dwell
in a word until it’s only air fluting
through a shell and that space where the sky spills
into the sea is not there. We had to walk
up to our waists in that muddy water to get
to the reeds, and we walked through the salty meadow
to get to the other sea. We walked into
the rising water to clean our clothes
and followed the beach to the ferry
that would take us over the dull,
smacking water and the cold, cotton sea.

Joelle Biele is the author of White Summer, winner of the Crab Orchard Review First Book Award. A Fulbright scholar, she has received awards from the Poetry Society of America and the Maryland State Arts Council and has taught American literature and creative writing at Goucher College, the University of Maryland, and the University of Oldenburg, Germany. (updated 11/2007)

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