Falling in Love
A penguin’s love looks like a heart. It is the thinness of necks and beaks settling into each other, the silence of heads and bellies touching. This is the most delicate act you will find in a buried land. This act is the whole world rushing beneath their feet, the map of Antarctica printing itself on the inside of their skin, the negative of their silhouettes flashing in closed eyelids. A penguin’s love holds up the horizon when it’s mussed with snow. It lasts the length of a continent and back again, over and over. I cannot prepare you for the gravity you will feel, but I can tell you this: Touch your bellies together and lean your head in. It might be the closest you ever get to love.
Is nine months a lifetime to a penguin? This, the length of their monogamy, the longest love story Antarctica can bear. A marriage of journeys to and from the sea. Their vows: I promise to come back. I promise to recognize your voice again. Ours: Cherish. From this day forward. Till death do us part. Penguin spouses leave marks of their travels in the snow with their bellies and claws, hoping that someone will remember. I walked those roads of ice to come back, not to you, but to myself, to the woman I saw in my dreams. As I went I dragged my rib bone on the continent for you, its end pockmarking the snow, a souvenir. Did you find this memory of me in your wandering? The penguin wife returns to the gift of her child, to the sound of love manufactured and sung just for her. I return, hoping for such a song, for the gift of being recognized.
Death Love Song
My mother’s voice on the phone after my brother died was smoky thick and sweet with pain. I thought I felt the oceans that divided us shiver with sadness. Every atom bows to the sound of a mother’s love. The penguin stands behind her dead chick, head hung in front of her chest in defeat. She keens, commanding the ice to honor its victim. It is a sound that only a lossmother can hear; only they know the crush of sky collapsing into their bodies. There is no way around. You must keep walking this earth that took your children. Write your grief on the sky and wrap yourself in cold. Sing while you wait for the air to change.
Karissa Knox Sorrell is the author of the chapbook Evening Body (Finishing Line Press, 2016). She earned her MFA from Murray State University in 2010. Her poems have been seen in journals such as Two Cities Review, Hawai'i Pacific Review, Gravel Mag, and Cactus Heart. Karissa lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she teaches English as a Second Language to high school students. Connect with Karissa at karissaknoxsorrell.com