The rising gulf is flooding the mouth
of the Caloosahatchee, rolling down
the coast from Lake Okeechobee

rust-colored and reeking of rotting fish
and seagrasses. We bank the boat
on a thinning beach in Estero Bay,

walk along the shore crowded with shells
and seaweed and dead mangrove stalks,
our eyes watering, throats dry

as a dead bird’s beak.
Even the algae can’t survive here
inside the bones of the Everglades.

We find a trailhead and follow it
toward Black Island, come upon a sign
that charts the animal species

known in the state park, but we see none
along the way: no egrets or anhinga
nosediving for sheepshead, no fox squirrels

munching on the masts of Bay Oak,
not even one zebra longwing lolling
along the deer ferns. Even the air plants

are twisting away from the trail,
as if tearing themselves from
their own roots.