/rose demaris

Fish Wife

Why does it hurt to see them? he wondered. Why
do they arouse?—blood-red accordions of gills
     rough against his fingers.
                     The filaments collapsed
when he pulled her out,
                        her pair of delicate fans
feathering for oxygen that would not
               come. Behind the boathouse he
                                                          removed the hook,
                              breathed into her mouth.
His tongue touched
her dying part, taught her
                a new way
                           to be.

                           Now she pads every morning
                           on high-arched feet
              into the carpeted room where
                  her three children sleep,
their eyes not quite shut, each slit
     crusted in dried saline.
                            She rides the train
                                          downtown, or tries
                            a coral
                                          cancels lunch,
                  carries the outgrown toys
                                                          to the curb.
A peculiar beauty. Timid. And easily

     No one knows about the old
entries to her body
                            blurred pink
                  scars beneath the birthday
                                choker of 18-karat gold.
But some ancient space between her words
      makes the neighbors ache,
                        and she also aches in the nightly bath,
almost remembering

that mute earlier life,
                                the yielding
grasses bent by a gesture
                much bigger than her husband’s,
            a hand that scalloped every granular edge of Earth,
how she drifted under it
                                    in unbroken beams
                                    of blue-green light.


No back gate tendrilled
              with placenta vine,
no water-birth video, no framed vows
or rhubarb recurring May after May.
I only have these empty palms and a small metal trailer
              after four decades spent burning wicks
                                          before the icons
                            of Family, Garden, Home.
No baggie of milk teeth
                            beneath bras in the top drawer.
I have myself alone.
But in the evening when the rock dove chants
                                                                                    just so
              and the little red bell of my frontal lobe rings,
I break
              inhabit the core of what I most want:
I enter those escaped curls, black commas
              on the back of her neck,
                            and rest in her pauses while she decides
                                                  what to do with me next.
My nightgown swells from the breath she blows
              into cherubim arrows
                            that bend, like lilacs, to her bee intensity.
I’m one chip in the coral of her bottom lip,
              ruddy with the tiny bones
                            of every endearment murmured from age to age
by spouses in four-poster beds, where she has deep roots,
                            and leaves stains—that One
              who gives and who sometimes withholds,
who concocted this moment, this heartbeat for me
out of saline, neroli, and mercury
              I come to life
                            in her. I am
                                                in Love.

Rose DeMaris‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, Image Journal, Roanoke Review, Qu, Vassar Review, Cold Mountain Review, and elsewhere. Rose is a poetry MFA candidate at Columbia University, where she also teaches creative writing.