Creature of salt
Swimmer in air
Walker on water: Hydrobates, wings lifted, mouthfuls of sea.
Native ground is not always land: Hers is a river of ocean carved between banks
of ocean, an oxbow
around a nose of continent.
She is endemic to current, not place;
movement, not earth.
They say she must eat light, and steer by it too –
the stars her lamp and compass.
They say this because she is disoriented
by cities and falls
from sky into their glow,
keels dead into windows
lands exhausted beside train stations.
But none know where she touches down to raise her own,
to lift her kind back again into sky
Until she turns up from the darkness under the cones of light that pool in the baked lots of a desert mine.
And when they go, they find her ocean doubled: Made not just of water, but of sand.
And tunneled beneath salar,
The bright orb of her egg.
Original art by the author; Comics poem based on the discovery, after decades of quandary, of ringed petrel nesting sites in the Atacama Desert earlier this year. Aside from coming in to land to breed and rear young, petrels spend their entire lives at sea. The ringed is endemic to the Humboldt Current — an upwelling of cold Antarctic waters rich with nutrients that is also very prone to both natural and anthropogenic climate disruption.