“The Shore of the Turquoise Sea,” oil on canvas, by Albert Bierstadt, 1878.

Subduction Shore

Fish fall from the sky
in silvery hooks
on a subduction shore
where boats beat at dusk with hunting
and the boy
opens and folds his bamboo against the seawater’s roll
in the slick song
that traps minnows.

Tourists hop over trash-swollen sand
and slide past the longyied denizens of fish
and peering eyes of grouper and stingray
and gelatinous hearts
in bikinis that drop onto wire hooks.

The boy is soaked
and stained in salt water.
The minnows are desperate now,
plunged beneath the wide surf.
Pig bones cradle in mangrove snares.
Tourists prick their toes on stone cut down to glass.
They trip and bow to the majesty of southern seas,
to some escape in their lives’
ocean wreckage.
And the boy
Dreams of drowning in falling fish.

Thin Ice

I stepped off my window
Down into winter that was giving itself over to spring,
To a pond that would soon become a nose-tickling
Soft stuffing of cattails and jellypoles.

That night, the last night of winter
I was a child in love with my blades shooting their lunar sparks,
And the crows in the willows who cooed,
And the bunnies who stood to applaud
As water licked and filled the cracks.

The ice, slivered and slick beneath my skates
Carried me over all the larvae and seeds,
All the stirring mud and minute embryos
Imagining what they were to become,
Into just one more night of danger.

I wanted the in-traversable distance of the pond behind me.
I wanted to look back
Over the bleak flash of night birds
Over this conglomeration of shards
That would drop at dawn’s first light
Into the soft and optimistic warmth
Of slurping panic.
I wanted the cut of blades nicking
Raw ice
And sinking.


We were a happy family
We ate at sun-soaked tables
We drank in good fortune
We ruled and did no harm
Those wicked shacks and blood-stained barns have all fallen
Under the weight of time and our gentle stories.

We floated down the James
Past our loamy soils and wholesome grains
In idle vacancies of pleasure
Our women’s tafettas purred
Our men were always so savvy
And dealt mercantile markets like a hand of cards.

And yet, after all the stories have settled
Into libraried certainties and prideful bundles of stocks
An overlooked meeting house
Nested in summer’s low country abundance
An old black woman crossing the road
Late for her shift
Tell truth.


A sociologist by training, Lynn Horton has published books and articles on global social issues such as armed conflict, sustainability, and gender and poverty. She is drawn to imagery and poetic imagination as a means to explore the human condition more deeply.