Asking Why, Watching the Manta Ray Ballet at the Aquarium of the Americas


A quiet lesson, the cave walls
breathe cycles of brightness

into every crag—their bluish-umber,
their bicycle-wheel-spinning

gleam. The stories we tell ourselves
leap and fall like fish into air,

back into the water—its quick
lip. Traffic happens by. A day

fastens, begins to guess
when a head will lift above tall grass.

All aquariums, whatever size,
see themselves a body of water.

After many years and so much ice
has melted, after we have seen

more worlds at the level of their
craters, my mother hands me

pages of the first words
I ever wrote, when writing was

new. For something seemingly small,
words extend periscopic, horizon-large.

I have never asked more of anything
or anyone than I have asked of this.

In distant caves, there are flowers dried
to symbol, left as an offering to the light—

I too suspect my life is a waiting room.
Each of us must come to terms

with what we can and cannot take
with us. Look, a solitary fly,

its wings singing over the book.

Tobias Wray