by Michele Sharpe
I was six or seven, on vacation.
Flamingos landed in their hundreds by
the infield lake at Hialeah.
Their pink, so lipsticky. Their size.
How could a bird be taller than me?
An old man called them exotic, from Cuba.
The flamingos bred.
Hialeah shipped the fledglings
to zoos around the country. Some escaped,
provoking rails against exotics, and now
I hear flamingos are our natives after all.
Hunted for their feathers and their meat,
the old ones fled Old Florida like other
natives fled conquistadors across
and back across and under,
Up north, on Ichetucknee, I watch the manatees
browse on water lettuce from my kayak.
Upstream, well-intentioned activists
pull at what they think
a strange and noxious weed.
It might as well be called another world,
the research station thirty miles away,
where water lettuce seeds, preserved like flies
in amber, speckle fossils older than
our puny memories.
They stay inside
their case and wait for vindication.
Michele Sharpe, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, adoptee, and former trial attorney. Her essays have been published or are forthcoming in the New York Times, The Rumpus, Guernica, Catapult, and The Sycamore Review. Michele’s recent poems can be found in B O D Y, Rogue Agent, Poet Lore, North American Review, Stirring, and Baltimore Review.