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
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
carries the outgrown toys
to the curb.
A peculiar beauty. Timid. And easily
No one knows about the old
entries to her body—
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,
that mute earlier life,
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
and the little red bell of my frontal lobe rings,
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
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.