“The Chilly Unknown”

(at the Atlanta aquarium)

by William Greenway

Only a few miles from where Jr. was conceived
in a veterans’ housing project, his mother
sleeping all night on the second-hand couch
to help the little swimmers downstream,
they tour this behemoth crystal ball of water,
marvel at the whale sharks straining krill
above their heads, blotting out the sun,
stroke the cow-nosed rays,
and watch the horseshoe crabs mating,
bubbling their eggs and milt.
In this zone, “The Chilly Unknown,”
belugas court and cavort like
big white cocks with goofy grins,
zooming through their blue twilight.
She says he’s the grumpy grouper
in perpetual pout in a wreck at the bottom.
She’s a triggerfish, nibbling incessantly
at the folds and fans of the coral reef.
Suddenly, they can’t wait to get back
to the hotel room, draw the drapes,
get naked, and dive down
into their own depths.
Or maybe leave the drapes alone,
welcome the crowd, waive
the twenty-four bucks a head,
let them come and watch
and wonder.

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