fitting, was given several 
time horizons to choose from 
& like the Wild West, its expanse left 
a lot to be pioneered. 

Words—tiny Jane and John Does— 
were a pig fed with blood meal. 
We would say, The data are what 
the data are, just vocalic endings. 

As for the sea project, 
measurements were off by 
a few inches in spite of strategic 
human-centered design— 

new studs were necessary, 
so were bespoke plumbing, roof, and all. 
There was a last-minute 
consideration for required bracing. 

You can imagine 
the house painters’ dilemma— 
their work cut out since 
Hollywooding was never an option. 

Though what survives without 
sunlight can & does survive here, 
countless red, blue, and yellow crates 
shipped & marked as “fragile.” 

Otherwise, everything was going 
as planned: New marine animals with syrup 
in their wings & the sea’s organs lit up 
like tiny moons, choreographed with a libretto. 

Here the theoretical floor 
never meets the actual one at all, 
not in the least, which you draw 
& indicate with a shaky dotted line. 



"If I had cable TV I would watch home renovation shows all the time. With this poem, I was interested in exploring the absurdity of a situation, such as retrofitting something as impossible and inscrutable as the sea, along with concerns about environmental damage and what is potentially irrevocable.

'The sea, overdue for its retro-' was, in part, inspired by a conversation with a woodworker/poet friend which sparked me to consider the imaginative possibilities and constraints of an impossible project, along with the uncanny environmental implications veering closer to nonfiction."

Esther Lee is a poet, essayist, and artist. She is the author of the poetry collection, Spit, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize, and chapbook, Blank Missives, by Trafficker Press. Her writing, visual art, collaborations, and book arts projects have appeared in Ploughshares, Verse Daily, Born Magazine, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing/Literature at the University of Utah and teaches as an assistant professor at Agnes Scott College.