Three Poems by Karla Linn Merrifield

In Refugium Near a Forgotten Coast

Eventide slides
lip of river	closes over
raccoon paths	hoofprints
left in gray sands
upstream it shoulders
sinuous miles	shoves aside
rushes   reeds	salts marshes
stirs broth
plankton-laden   larva-heavy

delicious silty stew of rudimentary
life	so I thank diatoms
not singing vespers
barnacles   tunicates
mute	   hermit crab
tossed	     his sinistral
lightning whelk	gone
with the inflow to
mudflats six miles from the gulf
no lonely word chanted
quiet settles
on the Perdido Rover
only one way
to hear their voices
read starlight reflected
in brown refuge waters
just before moonrise
long before Venus
the world goes slack
Earth’s deepest breath you take


“The context of everything is everything else.”
—Wendell Berry

Along with millions of disbelievers,
I let the Moon prove my undoing.
In a case of mistaken identity,
I perceived her as a sliver
in thinning mist slipping
into salt marshes, disappearing
in Perdido’s pink light,
but it was the whole of her there.
Full she somersaulted through
the Universe demystified
like a bleached sand dollar
in a shop window in Lillian
a few sluggish miles downstream.
In an act of pure silver lunacy,
she saw in the Echinarchnius parma
on display her former self.
When Cybele splashed into the Gulf,
no Aesop, no apostle, no poet lived
to explain Nature’s direct reprisal
for the great neglect of lunar myths.
Everyone on the Forgotten Coast forgot.
Defying gravity, Earth’s sole satellite
hit home. She was my apocalypse.

River Sutra

Breath of Earth made visible,
just perceptible with patience
for slow sweep of an Alabama river

a mile upstream from the estuary,
in mist lifting with the sun,
its exhalation paced 

by cloud-cottoned moon,
all the better if approaching
full, perfect, on the Perdido.

Here I could lead you
to numerous brackish shores,
seat you on a folding canvas chair

in fine, gray sand at the ebb,
have you remain
for a Buddhist’s meditative day.  

Mullet may jump,
kingfishers chatter, longleaf pines
bend wind with their silky needles,

limbs pliant in soughing prayer.
Sit, witness the measured inhalation
that brings a few tannic inches 

of holy water up over your ankles,
a baptism of this proper hour,
as the great pulse inexorably pulls

out to the Gulf of Mexico. Wait.
	It will return, will dry your feet again
	for another deeply breathing tide.

Award-winning poet, National Park Artist-in-Residence, and assistant editor and book reviewer at The Centrifugal Eye, Karla Linn Merrifield has had work published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has six books to her credit, including Godwit: Poems of Canada, which received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for Poetry, and her new chapbook, The Urn, from Finishing Line Press. Forthcoming from Salmon Press is her full-length collection Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North, and The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica from Finishing Line. You can read more about her and sample her poems and photographs at