two smaragdine, Sanjida Yasmin

two smaragdine


turtles in lieu of your birthday,

an aimless trip to Staten Island

on the aged & almost-abandoned South Ferry boat.

your charcoal hair dances

to the rhythm of the rocky waves

as you speak about Darwin’s Theory

& your criticism of Carl Sagan.

I yawn in ennui & turn to focus,

& fix my gaze on the fizzy,

bubbling waters that offer a better

story than the one you are feeding me.


Sanjida Yasmin


Review by Jared Pearce

I had to look up, smaragdine (Latin, emerald), and the connection to the turtles fit nicely. From there, the theme of the poem matches the green color of life to the contrasting visions of living that emerge in the poem: the you from a more theoretical, scientific, broad-viewed consideration, symbolized by Darwin and Sagan, and the speaker who, bored with the theoretical and the sciencey, focuses on the turtles, the water, the story nature can speak even between Staten Island and Manhattan. And though it might be too easy to make the split between the you and the speaker (one all abstraction, one all here and now), the you is described as being part of that living nature, with dancing, charcoal hair. In this way, the poem problematizes the dichotomy, both drawing a contrast and showing we’re all in the same boat, as it were, even an old, lonely, aimless boat.

From this point we could talk about the ferry as being symbolic for the Earth itself, containing theories and realities, and that the meanings and nourishment we take can be beautiful (turtles), pointless (the trip), focused on the grand and the particular, both engaging and dull. I like poems like this, where the story of the birthday journey can help me consider this life, what it holds, and how I participate in it—a miniature Odyssey.

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