Meditation On an Unnamed Island

Jennifer Atkinson

No one asks who dropped the first shell,
when among the mangroves’ arched roots,
out of the heaps of oyster shells, fallen
and crushed to lime, the snags and shoals
of random tide-flung bits and silt-on-silt
accumulation, new land rises up.

We love the idea of the world as a sudden
paradise created whole on purpose for us
to lose by being human. Or the other idea
of the world as envisioned designed garden
toward which it studiously evolves.

Meanwhile, here on actual shell-by-shell-
by-mangrove created ground, the raccoon
philosopher turns her mind to pleasure,
to work—shucking oysters, digging clams,
combing her tail of fleas and burrs. All around

the rack and weave of mangrove, mudflats
marked with slicks and shallows, decomp
reverting and recombining. And overhead
the fish crow flies from bay to bayou,
the sun-silvered eel in its talons writhing
(what if it were?) in a sideways figure eight.

Jennifer Atkinson is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently The Thinking Eye from Free Verse Editions. She teaches in the BFA and MFA programs at George Mason University.


  1. Strong stuff, Jennifer. The “raccoon philosopher,” by herself, is possibly wry enough to chuckle at the human frame of nature. The final image, in black and silver, flies across the mind’s window with alarming accuracy.

  2. Great poem. Loved the raccoon philosopher….and the landscape notes.

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