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Clade Song 13

Swimming With the Sharks

The seaside resort offers a snorkel experience, aimless
flipper-meandering among harmless nurse sharks,
minor-league leopard sharks. You might get lucky
enough to touch a non-apex predator, or, maybe even
a barbs-removed stingray wing-climbing the pool’s
exit steps while looking for a handout. Their safe underwater world
is scrubby clean, vibrant--but when you look closely
you notice a shimmer along the surface, a glisten
spreading iridescently. You and the kids
have had your swim and goggled views, so you move along.
Back at the lounging chairs: people slathering their children
with pink-bottled SPF, protecting them with the chemical wonders
of oxybenzone, octinoxate. You’ve read the label
and the syllables remained with you. Light reflects
off of the saline-doctored water like falling stars,
while a question starts rippling across the surface smears.
You ask an attendant about the tank’s bright coral,
its relation to the Great Reefs. Turns out it isn’t real—
you’re told that sunscreen would bleach any actual colonies.
And so: guests are entertained with
painted concrete, soft plastic seaweed.

You herd your vacation gaggle to the resort’s beach,
where a laughing woman sprays aerosol tan-accelerator
in grand swipes across her husband’s poorly depilatoried back;
the wind catches a bronzing share, whisks it nonchalantly
in a browned rainbow toward the waves; tides will carry
the compounded mist, maybe across the globe. And you remember:
you’d also asked the lazing attendant if any of the sharks
ever died—thinking aren’t they long-lived? Happens more often
than you think
, but for the resort there’s an economic upside: they sell
the carcasses to a local company that produces shark repellent.
From dead sharks. Of all things. A few drops, and even the most
voracious scavenger or killer makes for depths far far away;
a defensive measure safeguarding fishing nets, bait cast from excursion boats
trolling the seas; the repellent company does their best business
protecting expensive equipment on oil exploration vessels
and nuclear submarines—a shield against curious jaws, teeth. You recall
how one of the sharks you swam with moved slowly, as if something
about his simple life had suffered a confusion, a possible barrier:
the hand that feeds him vs. the hand off to the side
making sure nothing pretty and precious gets harmed.







Scott T. Hutchison's previous work has appeared in Split Rock Review, The Fourth River, The Georgia Review and The Southern Review. A new book of poetry, Moonshine Narratives, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Poems are forthcoming in Evening Street Review, Illuminations, Steam Ticket, Tampa Review, and Slipstream