Portrait, with Rising Sea Levels

"Take note; and even as I speak these words,
do you transmit them in your turn to those
who live the life that is a race to death."
                         ~ Beatrice to Dante, Purgatorio 33, 52-54

Beloved, each day the waters
of the earth rise a little more. 

At the polar ends, they're flushed
with heat pushing up from ocean

currents that  shear away sheets
of ice.  We still take what we can.

In the midst of such rapid dwindling, 
each heated afternoon we uncoil 

the garden hose and train its mouth 
upon the small, parched planets 

we've created in pots. Every mouth
could gladden for what passes into it

and greens it with breath. On the coast,
the dense berm of mangrove forests 

thins; their breathing roots
drown in too much water.  

Yesterday, I too felt like I was drowning.
The years were rushing too far ahead

of me, and I could barely remember 
how to hold them, how once they held me 

as if all the light in the world was new. 
Stars burn. We could be glaciers adrift

in a slow-moving river. Beloved, still I look
for anchor as the sky thickens with signs 

and uncertain ciphers. There are moments,  
as when you take my face into your hands.  

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