A Poem by Erika Funkhouser

From the book "Natural Affinities" (1983)

On a morning when we’re fastened

to the worst that falls

between us, I take a boat

and row out to the starfish

strewn upon their searock

as if tossed down by an archer

who found better gloves to wear.

Body upon body

flattened by wave-press,

the brown and purple stars

cling to each other in heaps;

the opposite of a Japanese garden,

where a few enduring stones

suggest the significance

of time and distance.

I can’t decide if the stars are happy.

They’re layered deep

from the tide-torn surface

down to their feast of barnacles.

You couldn’t map them from the air

or lay them end to end to count them.

Their hunger crowds them down,

exhaustion intertwined with will.