Mary Helen Callier



She was shocked to learn it was real, the name abysmal zone,
abyssopelagic layer, derived from Greek for bottomless,
what makes up over eighty percent of the ocean, itself
seventy percent of the earth. A world locked in
perpetual darkness. Where light cannot
break through. That on that surface, stars crawl.
After the storm we found a certain strand of them, pink
and lightly speckled, splayed across the sand. Compass-
limbed. What I held in my hand hoping to feel.
The tiny legs beneath the legs. What pulled
the weight across. It’s a careful way to crawl, slow
and continental. The legs tuck in when living,
when dead they sway the way swamp grasses sway,
the way the hair on the arm of the person you love sways
when moved by wind. Like a starfish, the boy had said.
The body pressed into the ground beneath him. Yes,
like a starfish. The things we strained our eyes to look at,
looking for the smallest hint of life. Look, she said.
Buried, there, in the dark, its own abysmal zone.
The place where limbs disintegrate. Some dropped,
some torn away. Stars are buried there. And in that dark, unfurling.

MARY HELEN CALLIER is a poet from Columbus, Georgia. Her poems are featured/forthcoming in The New Southern Fugitives, Sip Cup, Ghost City Review, and elsewhere. She is a current MFA candidate at Washington University in St. Louis.