SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Does Anyone Know Where to Begin? by Chloe Firetto-Toomey


Three sections inspired by eco-documentaries


Mum and I visit the Sistine Chapel and agree

it is one ornate question: cherubs with spears,


gold-threaded shadows, massacres in the tapestries.

People gather like crows or cells or clouds, taking pictures.


Michelangelo’s distant fingers

so high, the altar so small.


Recall Sagrada Familia, doves chiseled in the masonry.

Gaudi’s lungs of light, harnessing


every hue in stoned-carved hallows—

This is how man should capture everything.


Witness the body’s departure


:: shaped by wind, carved into the mouths of birds ::

:: a pyre flickers on still water ::

two modes of reckoning.


Snub-nosed monkeys

in robes, munching lichen.


A circus of parrots in the canopies.

Jellyfish, immortal, unless eaten.


Is death another word for home;

departure or arrival?


::                                                           ::                                                                       ::


Walking with the archeologist

along the old river line

scanning for clam-shell clusters,

conch spines, divots in the bedrock.


He stops to select an oblong object

from the dirt. Coprolite, he says,

fossilized human shit, and holds it up for me.

A dark and slender root which he places in a Ziploc.


We wander to the edge of Little River,

:: glimpse the water :: as you might glimpse ::

              patches of sky from a New York alleyway.


                                                      Styrofoam icebergs dissipate to snow balls::

                                                              mint flotsam, peppered and oiled;

an abandoned washing machine

embedded in the riverbed.

All our empty packages

tripped up-wind,

to crowd


to settle

here on surface

and seabed.

Then, movement: a paddle-tail

disturbs the rubbled water,

                                                            dislodges plastic bags and bottles—

                                                          two manatees surface, wastelands bob

                                                                 against their large grey bodies.


It could be a clip from an eco-documentary, I say,

manatees return home as guests.[1]


::                                                                     ::                                                             ::



There's nothing wild. There's no wilderness. It's all home[2]


A freighter ship trundles through the arctic sea

dwarfing icebergs


black bow

arrowing the hazed water


:: a polar bear curled on the black rocks


hind legs tucked

to elbows

head bowed

on fore-paw


mourning the vibrancy of glaciers ::


Did a wild and invasive species take refuge in us

while we were                                               sleeping?


Gannets nosedive

for the secrets sardines keep

while the world binges

on moon pies, medias, and

food-shaped candy,

heads turned away from the window.


90 percent of the goods we consume are brought to us by ship[3].


1] “24 Snow” directed by Mikhail Barynin (Environmental film festival)

[2] Ray Reitze in “Guided” directed by Bridget Besaw (Environmental film festival)

[3] "Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping " directed by Denis Delestrac

Chloe Firetto-Toomey is an English-American poet and essayist. She is an MFA student at Florida International University where she served as Poetry Editor for Gulf Stream Magazine and was the recipient of the 2017 Academy of American Poet's Prize. Find her poems and essays in Cosmonauts Avenue, Origins, and Saw Palm, among others. Her chapbook, Cabbage Flower, will be published by Dancing Girl Press in the Fall of 2018. To learn more, visit chlobirdpoetry.com.


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