after Wyman Wong                                                           


when she first heard that song she had to touch both her feet to the floor and try to breathe.

then again, though, how common are whirlpools? she had never seen one.

if it is a real vortex, then even at the tip of its glimpsing, her death too might burble, impending.

“to drown”, all along immanent in the blue water, algae-ridden and fearsome, now reaching—

in what wrong fever does that get alluring?

but it does: it was deep in her veins now, she sensed its hot eddies,

she mouthed the hoarse words silently and then she hurried to mouth their taking-back,

the invitation of it all too bare, too soon:

i never told you kiss me starting at my toes, i never told you kiss me starting at my toes,

never told you, never said kiss, or i said to kiss someone else like that, not me, not me…

to the layering, illusory tempo. its promise of release, sustained, withheld.

touch-hunger flickering at the opening of the tender crease behind each knee.

also question-hunger. in the end, once you let go, what happens?   

naturally she went looking to find that out.

there is a whirlpool off of the west coast of scotland called “the hag”, the third largest on earth.

one year a film crew put a life vest on a mannequin and sent it in.

the hag-mouth drank that body, dragged it awhile up and down the coastal seabed, spat it out.

on film, the surface whirl traces a serene constant on the springtime tide.

at times, around it, small disturbances appear, frothy galaxies spiraling in outer seagreen space.

drab soft growth fluffs the crags above the sunken vacancy.

retrieved, the sensors on the mannequin showed depth measurements close to nine hundred feet—

into the mesopelagic, the layer of ocean called the twilight zone, where slowly day

ceases to reach its ladder down. she pictured the scene:

low swirl of music in a dimming basement, blue walls deepening to indigo around a velvet couch,

and then, across the room at first, then closer, closer, voice against her skin—not song—so much

more intimate than song—her lyric stranger, siren, ageless, murmuring. the world above

a wood-plank fishing boat in bloom with smithereens.


Edith Lidia Clare is a poet and translator currently in the second year of her MFA candidacy at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, TX. Though originally of Panamanian and Irish-American heritage, she was raised in Hong Kong and Singapore, where her education was bilingual in English and Chinese. She is also a poetry editor for the journal Peripheries, and her work is published in or forthcoming from Colorado Review, Bennington Review, Fugue and elsewhere.