Upon Hearing of a Manatee Swimming toward Cape Cod

She swims, smooth and pale and white,

away from her native tropic waters

into the cold depths that Cape Cod harbors;

an odd oceanic explorer

coasting carefully through unknown waters,

slipping past a different shore seeking

perhaps some new vista

to gaze at when, desirous of fresh air,

she raises her body above water–

a disturbing sight, nearly mythological–

confounding us with the sight.


Experts tell me the manatee

is a rare, delicate mammal

confined to warm southern waters,

a thing to preserve,

some thing future generations may admire

without reserve. Yet

her strange journey seems to darken this vision,

Nature taking some deliberate action–but what?


The specialists cannot agree.

So this year as last year (and possibly the next

if another manatee launches yet another

exploration of northern waters) we will

trap her and return her

to the warm waters that will,

we know, best keep her alive

if not satisfied.


Her journey and that one last year bewilder

me. No expert myself, I wonder why

the Manatee attempts these trips

and whether another will make the trek again some day.

Perhaps she met last year’s explorer

who perhaps met or learned about some other manatee

who sometime in some past moment

did slip past our guardian-gaze,

unremarked past Cape Cod’s deathly-cold waters

and back again to Florida to tell the tale

of humpback whales and lobster pails–

a fish story of sorts.