Volume 10 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2018-2019

Mark McKain


Two-foot dog shark nosing the jetty where a tattooed salt says he has a friend whose dog would fetch them from the waves.

I cringe to think of dog teeth on dogfish scale, and of Eugenia Clark, pioneer in shark biology, fondly nicknamed Shark Lady.

She studies sharks well past the age of 92, using the shark’s enhanced senses, electronic lateral line digitized, augmented genetics, and telemetry to transmit data as an aquatic research station, communicating with land colleagues and graduate students that are outfitted to receive transmissions with special collars. Her research focuses on evolutionary pressures, how long a species has been on its own, and what’s it like to live in deeper waters.

The first scientist to pursue her research as a shark, Genie’s dogfish, which she discovered. No miracle but the consequence of poetic/scientific justice and the eternal return—she desired and deserved to transform into her beloved cartilaginous fish.

I wave goodbye and wish her luck in eluding dogs and the growing Red Tide, suffocating so many of our fish-scientists.

Essay/Assay: Soil Crusts

Root system shallow, shallow
as my perception or the Cretaceous sea
inundating/retreating, bones and crystals falling like snow.

Creosote and saguaro rely on nitrogen fixing lichen,
seed-nurturing, mucilaginous cloud, sopping up rare rain.
I fix shadows on the screen.

What would Humboldt report, inspecting the Ajo mine: two hills ground down, open pit descending to toxic pool? I trespass to get the shot, the huge saguaro’s arm, twisting down
like a tail, siren mouth, singing sweet dissonance, upright limb hailing pale sky.

We are abandoned mines of goodness and gold.

Step to reframe hard lines, soft shapes vulnerable on a gravel canvas. Inner eye
projects orphaned shades—wandering cousin, fainting mother, speechless
father, crying my name. Kneel

to snap fragile crusts, find tracks,
human soles treading to
refuge of lost mine.

Mark McKain’s work has appeared in Agni, The Journal, Subtropics, Blue Mesa Review, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. His poetry chapbook Blue Sun was published by Aldrich Press in 2015. He teaches screenwriting and creative writing in St. Petersburg, Florida.