X. Second Hand : Sink

gravid the plasma stroboscope purrs — to whom — refulgent firefish — the sun was matchless go down — concern — fluctuates cerulean blast — to contain the whole ocean contains — substance flayed back diaphanous — idea we vowed lifted filter — sedated throb — through central dense overcast our head up — on board subsist famishment to scowl at — over expanse we ran upstairs — shriveled flourish without pang of organism — whale — where — before red can rub out — after unfledged mainspring resembled uncontaminated — to write this dropped paraphernalia on floor — you constrain — must lift calf up — parasite to phalanx — to first breath — convulsesmirk — with fog in brain something — pending operatic inflection to glamorous obscurity — like stale sugar reactivated in arteries — eroded drudgery — we did not say barely anything — can’t it — yet paltry we could unconsenting decompose your orbits — injury all shy nourish — breached from freight — unless we contain — took us forever to quaff enough — before anemone retracts — bewitching you — and calf carries motherload — they indiscriminate — before lost to itself — torch been void — we hear your voice without a face — flares magnify antithesis beyond daybreak — we choke tsunami of words — hermit crabs wash up heavily coated — hormones surge to get out of mouth — smudge neither none — melt smooth as amber before ready to call you ethereal pink — teeming bombardment — disorganized swaths of sea dead hush — however crestfallen — we close eyes to send you — immersed in brainstorming magnitude — transplant coral to concrete framework farms — siren we install — before plumb line snaps — while on deluge and pitchtropospheric — disturbed weather and the whole time our mind tries to document it all — stricken so that we could witness — colonial forests bleached — our berth consumed — document its documenting until every wheeze a mighty ship — haphazard ark — with masts of grave meaning — sequesters amplitude — underlies slip-through-fingers forms — alacrity unmatched — to meet on-coming days — skates the ridge — before we can — halfselves venture postliminium — how to guard — tend — steal away — surplus property coerced unquestionably — let it feed into your fingertips — billows inflate cumbrous cumuli then drain — before slack unrivets the helicoid — the room — halfself a vessel a bladder — a lapse which wisecracks — color of bone — before mermaid purse bursts — reverberates frantic fly bounces off glass — remove asunder that brutal bolt on daunting elements — did you say eyelid — therefore convoy — say our head feels hammered new roof — circumnavigators in newfangled airfoils — ring of towering thunderstorms — circulate in your arteries — basin — balloon — burdensome smuggle — hull — searchlight — solo sail say up — before targets hatchling turtle — pendulous to pinnate fervor on rabid brine — say not a wind touched itself in procession-ache — slobber hissed evaporation — everything smelled unhospitalized — like livid elephantine deliverance — live bait — tonight our need to be for you — riot overthrown by stanchion — truncated kelp — though hulk forsakes inferior cygnus — sleepwalking subaqueous — we feel fabricated — before burrow under scar — inserted they euphoric breakers — burned by morning like eyes — and litigate — did you say it hurts to be restless — encore encumbrance — so irresistibly easy not to ask — descends humpback blowhole — summitward they stack up saturation — could have completely misread your letter — imply the negligible — cavernous as patrolling — we are licensed to endure an urbane velocity — aimless single-celled organisms float blind encircle us ions — stagnant that suggested pelagic vassals reverse — areas of stronger updraft — jocund packet — before swell steals concealment — they transport torpid horizon guts digested — to topmasts sang a haze that crippled articulation — livewires — point-blank electrocuted grayslick approaches craft — trapped in vehicle fills with — totem groans omphalos by synonymstylograph — before bareness vivifies — alto universe — twinge to combat twinge — dispatch flounders on parchment while script is squashed into margin — before dumbo octopus deflates and sea stars harden — actually gawk a trace of us — to whom evening’s planet remained cryptic — cautioned with bucket — all the affection we try to fling — our most secret desire to know — we compel — what our most secret desire is — be calculated — gasp for oxygen — on our shadow by scaffold — abandon rhythm — and aphasic from sidewinder — oiled lanugo — a light-thesis — hypothermia for infant fur seals — multicolored lanterns flags — salvage — repopulate — galvanize on drench — replace story for story — one flash degree the zibeline — we feel fabricated — we no could scan atomic at panoptic — stillborn porpoise — an indicator of increase in tropical cyclone organization — when fulmination sputters infra-exposed — omits key modifiers in permanent ink — we vigorous fathom them — rain bands rotate — unabridged — something brews behind us — against junk — hydraulic cutting tools to extricate — ate the impulse to freeze — snatched out of your fate and into — brawl with themselves dexterous — splash straight to window — did you did you — you could — porthole — germinal code — the lid tilts — detached we idiosyncratically hyper — we make of you everything to hold everything — descry you — to quake — to shake off — where capsule divorces — half conscious — by excavation — buoyancy compensator — into the abyss — spare air — due at once we stumble unblighted — life for life for life for life — generate alias by veritably spit you sickly to us — our pelt to wrap your vitals our victuals — so perpetuate we — before cyclostome satiates — that primate no would be cognizant of leakage — the actual cost of collecting tarred otters — ring of towering thunderstorms surround — you not — to recover by impact as a prize — isolate extinction — open up our — debut dribbles down our parental fortificationno they be authorized to you no — eye of storm — as a siege — barometric pressure drops — therefore stagger we by bounded shafts and slabs — pre-release conditioning — all we sense is silent static a phone line after receiver clicks closed in our stomach — banded or tagged — needled on cotidal amnesia — we see you you unlace our neurons — before surf snags cabbage white — flume they could grove splintered us — tried to pry the gag — we dismember — allow what we shroud from halfselves to encounter us — buried in laundry — before disembodied intimacy — and insurrect further delirious apex — not satisfied with what we think we want to give you countless responses — to deliver — between beckons — buy out of captivity — will startle spurned — reclaim from debasement — to primal bedrock — ancient archives about kin still alive scrape at our sides — abandonment — bystander no could stroke greater spasm — the eyewall opens opens the wi
ndow unbuttons its shirt — enters pelican lungs or liver — to bathyal howl — telescopic hollow shrieks as if from children inside jars — flush too immediate for the immediacy of morphemes — naked room reverberates — your prongs wither flaccid — redeem by remora — we itch for your attitudes on every particle — if only we could unclasp our hands — dislodged from bondage — or find them — bandage — badge — drool past what dimmed — large body of in large body of merge — through sliding glass door — seeming — to mend the break to merge to break the mend to submerge — serviceable — we want to be fully us — before self-asphyxiant — say much more — ocelli weld themselves — put lens to bright crater — which hero erased — spot us down here in chill wild calm — you subsume electorate —tread water elevates vows us to mirrorlike pane — where so many decorated people — they are not narrow us materialized — rapid filamentation zone — we ransack your altitudinous cerebrum by flux and ultimatum — stand faded beyond you — so whitecaps expel us by you — our object sharp against wavering reverie — where they rave — large dark iris — dawn is wicked season enfeebled from shell — adheres to sensory hairs around dugong mouth — not a slat stamps — did you say dilation of — lambent levitation — inflammation or infection — bloodshot — hurricane gains power — lucid out of serum — crude in dolphin milk — new way to feel uneasy — as if your gills annex vim — your face without a voice — sapphire of unreachable — high atmospheric pressure — thereby goggles seal — air flows outward anticyclonically — we graze your exalted facade — it was your birthday — brush clammy vibrissa — pushes air towards our own neglect — be found be found — we seemyou simulate maculate trophy — positive feedback loop — slump our undersized allotment — danced on deck — we scratch you repeatedly — spirals inward to center — infatuate you finally be accorded spark — did you say — categorically scoped we precociously disambiguate quarry — before fantasy bond — alpine cobalt volcano of which crown troglodyte shivering sheds — proves holograph — heartpang like it killed a tuning fork — wander suppressed — sheathe all this finery — cascade perceived abiding embankment — you ascend rockets — provocative — anchor-point — matured jungle biodegradable — the thrill counteracts central updrafts — propulsive sprawled a faction or asylum — ice rescue — discern we acutely zero shock as copper brightener — swift water rescue — toxic solvent genealogy luxuriates there with humdrum — absolutely frightened — advance the terminal abaxial and cloyingly palpable saplings — plunge down vortex under — confined space rescue — the phone call was ending — to risk you — shift abundance does modicum cove — cave rescue — there muffles surveillance — helicopters — however vastly profound — light sticks — beeline to slash — before viscera — frosted gossamer unfeigned is slander — but soon our head again up — shape sense — up here drift we by empyrean squint nucleus — of somniloquy — pave you quartz grit — never have we seen such — grief especially encephalon reposed — to quake — climaxed pervasive solar incineration — fire art ardor dexterity asterisks — ex-quatere — insignificant tintinnabulum — excutere — to olla-podrida — re-escoure — lactescent hoard — before the moon’s our haruspex — supervene fluke of acrospires through sinkhole cradle-urge — fall from ozone-rich stratosphere — plunged shrunken halfself longitudinal — give up what — reeling pittance skyscrapes cinder blockravage exorbitance — is demanded — from fluid implanted salt spume on your barbulechest cavity so vapid could sight our microzoan brazenness — distance line — when we accommodate — marks the exit route — forth whom vicinity impends — newly formed eye — impoverished protoplasm

XII. Appendix : Organ We Can Live Without


Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid), in the original Danish, by Hans Christian Andersen, 1837. Published on the website of Det Kongelige Bibliotek (The Royal Library) in København, Danmark. Date of last access: Dec. 19, 2011. < http://www2.kb.dk/elib/lit/dan/andersen/eventyr.dsl/hcaev008.htm >

Andersen, Hans Christian. Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Andersen. Trans. Patricia L. Conroy and Sven H. Rossel. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980.

Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth. Trans. Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.


I chose to mistranslate Den Lille Havfrue because the story (in English translation) has haunted me since I was a child. I am half Danish, but I do not know much of the language. This helped me diverge from the meanings in the Danish text while also feeling connected to them.

The overture and the recitative dialogue between Six and sea life are largely mistranslations of themes from Den Lille Havfrue and other sources. Half of Zero is partially a thematic mistranslation of the end of Den Lille Havfrue and part of the Sumerian myth “The Descent of Inanna.” Six’s memory arias are largely mistranslations of the original Danish text of Den Lille Havfrue, though there is also thematic mistranslation involved. Information from other sources are collaged into some of these lingual mistranslations. I divided Den Lille Havfrue into seven sections and used different mistranslation methods for each.

Diminished Fifth. Every fifth word shares the initial letter with every fifth Danish word in part of the fourth section.

Seventh Half (memory aria). Slant homophonic mistranslation of the Danish text in the first section. I let feelings and images rise into my imagination in response to both themes of interest to me and the Danish language, guiding how I made meaning of the sounds. This was the first mistranslation, which led me to conceiving the rest of Unrequited Symbiosis.

Second Hand : Mirror (memory aria). Deliberately sloppy translation into English of the Danish text from the second section. The sloppy translation was made via somewhat inaccurate online translator programs and whimsical use of a Danish-English dictionary. I collaged the resulting text with language from old love letters I wrote and articles about storms.

First at Longing Last (memory aria). I lineated Danish text from the third section. Then I chose a Danish word from each line that suggested an English word around which I wrote a new line.

Second Hand : Clock (memory aria). Thematic mistranslation of the rescue scene in the second section. I collaged it with language from other sources like old love letters I wrote and articles about rescue operations, coral ecology, and the impact of oil spills on sea life.

Fourth With (memory arias). I chose key words from the Danish text in the fifth section, using them as spine words for acrostic stanzas based partially on my dreams. The English titles for these acrostics are translations of the Danish spine words.

Third Wheel (memory aria). Pantoum composed around certain key images chosen from the sixth section.

Sixth of One (memory aria). I took every six words of the seventh section of Danish text and ran them through an online English anagram generator to produce new lines. I chose the anagrams I felt supported what I wanted to say emotionally and thematically, rearranged them, and collaged them with other lines I wrote.

Second Hand : Sink. Slant synonym replacement of part of a deliberately sloppy translation into English of the Danish text from the second section. I chose slant synonyms that I felt were musically rich and emotionally energetic to make a sea of language. I then took the poems I wrote for Mirror and Clock and sunk their lines in the sea of language, trying to drown them despite their struggle to stay afloat.


“Tveægget sværd” is Danish for “double-edged sword” and can be found in Den Lille Havfrue.

Unrequited Symbiosis was written in collaboration with Den Lille Havfrue (and other subtexts). However, Six is not a mermaid, and Seven is not a prince. Six and Seven do not have named, static, male/female, polar opposite, or same genders. Nor do the subcharacters of Marland and Landmar.

Though I’ve done my best to populate the different depths of ocean in Unrequited Symbiosis with sea creatures that are normally found at such depths, I have not accurately represented the specific locations around the world where these creatures are found. I bring together some species that normally do not inhabit the same place. For example, one reef species might be found at a depth of 15 meters only in parts of the Indo-Pacific whereas another reef species might be found at the same depth only in parts of the Caribbean. While based on many facts and mainly reflective of various Pacific and Indo-Pacific environments, the ocean in Unrequited Symbiosis is a stylized composite.

EllenRedbirdPhoto2013-200wEllen Redbird is a poet and playwright who earned an MFA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa University. Redbird runs Pyriform Press and edits the journal Nerve Lantern: Axon of Performance Literature. She’s taught poetry writing workshops for kids and adults. Her poems and performance texts have appeared in journals, including Chain, Bombay Gin, For Immediate Release, and Score. Redbird is a contributor to the compendium kari edwards: NO GENDER (Litmus Press / Belladonna Books, 2009). She wrote and directed Verve of Verge: a puzzle play, which was performed in 2010 in Goleta, California, raising donations for the local Pacific Pride Foundation. A scene from Verve of Verge was previously produced by Magus Magnus and directed by Enoch Chan for the Yockadot Poetics Theatre Festival in Alexandria, Virginia, 2007. Redbird’s latest manuscript Unrequited Symbiosis: A Mitochondrial Mistranslation & Underwater Opera is not yet published in full but is ripe to be read.