Shape of a Manatee

My heart holds the shape of a manatee,
which I know despite never having grasped
my own heart, despite having only watched a
manatee at SeaWorld—before Blackfish, before 

my children were born, before Michael and Irma
belted Florida. Before whatever travesty lands
next, I loved the sea cows floating in what looked
to me then like a passable estuary. Living plants, 

well-stamped rocks, the Windexed sides of a large
aquarium. From my post beside the tank, I looked up
through lilies’ shadows to the waving liquid sun.
The manatees were feeding, unbothered by Evinrude

signatures scrawled in black across their backs.
Their slow rest belied no concern for their species’
dripping numbers, for human encroachment upon
their native hollows, the mercurial temperature 

of those air-clear springs. They floated on, serene,
languid in the filtered light. Digesting seagrass,
closing their eyes to that lolling sun. Closing their eyes
to the girl with both palms pressed against the glass.



Emry Trantham

Emry Trantham is an English teacher in Western North Carolina, where she is raising three daughters and writing poems. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Noble Gas Qtrly, Cider Press Review, The Adirondack Review, and others. She is also a 2019 Gilbert-Chappell Emerging Poet.