Somewhere beyond silent streets
and woodlands, beyond upheaved
graveyards, empty schools, dry spillways, vacant
hibernaculums for little brown bats
beyond the last larval foodplant for the last
western tiger swallowtail
an old woman sits by the sea untangling
the nets of each life she can dream.
Her cabin above the tideline is filled with books
from the Time Before but little else.
She cooks over a burn barrel beside her shack
stokes it with driftwood and whatever tumbles
ashore. Once an old door made a landing, then
a desk still intact. She grills any scrap of flesh
the sea hacks up—bull kelp, moon
jellies, three-eyed eels. Eats them with succulent
stems of glasswort growing in the sand.
When evening comes, she flings each newly
sorted net upon the ocean like a bedsheet
for each is a piece of the planetary
genome. She is waiting for the nets to find
one another, to reconnect end-to-
end, spiral beneath the waves. Replicate.
But each net returns alone, an enfolded mass
of knots, bone, chitinous exoskeletons, bloated
elongate bodies of the unknown.
* * *