A Sonnet at The Edge of the Reef

Craig Santos Perez


at the Waikīkī Aquarium


Our daughter dips her hands into the reef

exhibit—touches a sea cucumber and red urchin

as butterflyfish swim by. A docent explains: one night

a year, after the full moon, after the tide rises

to a certain height, after saltwater reaches the right

temperature, only then the ocean will cue swollen

polyps to spawn, in synchrony, a galaxy

of gametes, which will surface, open, fertilize,

form larvae, root to seafloor, and grow generation

upon generation. At home, we read a children’s

book, The Great Barrier Reef, to our daughter

snuggling between us in bed. There’s no mention

of corals bleaching, reared in labs, or frozen

in vaults. And isn’t that, too, a kind of shelter?


Craig Santos Perez is an indigenous Chamorro poet from the Pacific Island of Guam. He is the author of four collections of poetry and the co-editor of five anthologies. He is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa.

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