A poem by Claire Wahmanholm

December 23, 2023

P is for picture book, the pillow at our backs, my daughter in her Peppa Pig pajamas. P is for peace and peace lily and Peace rose; for peek-a-boo and this little piggy. I open Plip Plop Pond's flashspun polyethylene pages and point to the polliwogs and lily pads. Let P not be for the Permian Basin and its pipelines and petrochemical plants. Let the phosphorus not proliferate, the pH not plunge. I flip to Paddington, perched politely outside the Lost Property Office, and try not to picture the cruise ships pumping sewage into Peruvian ports. But P is for plague ship. P is for Point Nemo, where de-programmed spacecraft pinwheel into smaller and smaller rain, pepper the waves with paint chips. Around it, the Garbage Patch purls its plastics into pieces smaller than plum pits, smaller than pixels, pinpricks, plankton. P is for plastic, more permanent than permafrost. I open Each Peach Pear Plum to spy it hidden in the ptarmigan, the pheasant, in the phthalo blue of the Portuguese man o' war. I read The Princess and the Pea and feel the pellets in each layer of the ocean: epipelagic, mesopelagic, past where light penetrates, into the bathypelagic, abyssopelagic, where scientists have found polyester in the molten putty between the Pacific and Philippine plates. P is for the pontoons of Polar Spring, Propel, and Panama Blue. I sing "Baby Beluga" and see pods of pilot whales with pool floaties pretzeled inside their pelvic cavities. I turn the page but it's a palindrome of panic. The petrel preens petroleum from its plumage. The propeller pulps the back of the porpoise. The pressure on my windpipe will not unwrap itself. My daughter has slipped into sleep. I place her outside my arm's parenthesis so she can't feel my pulse pounding. P is for parachute, I whisper. P is for pearl, penicillin, picnic, planetarium, platypus, plink, the pocket-sized pipistrelle, the Ponderosa and its pine beetles. I turn up the pink noise on her sound machine so she can't hear that P is also the end of chirp, tulip, kelp, scallop, icecap, sleep.