The Lonely Pipefish

By Barbara Howes 1914–1996 Barbara Howes
Up, up, slender   
         As an eel’s
         Child, weaving   
Through water, our lonely   
Pipefish seeks out his dinner,

         Scanty at best; he blinks
         Cut-diamond eyes—snap—he   
         Grabs morsels so small
Only a lens pinpoints them,
But he ranges all over

         That plastic preserve—dorsal   
         Fin tremulous—snap—and   
         Another çedilla
Of brine shrimp’s gone ...
We talk on of poetry, of love,

         Of grammar; he looks   
         At a living comma—   
         Snap—sizzling about
In his two-gallon Caribbean
And grazes on umlauts for breakfast.

         His pug nosed, yellow
         Mate, aproned in gloom,   
         Fed rarely, slumped,
Went deadwhite, as we argued on;   
That rudder fin, round as a

         Pizza cutter, at the
         End of his two inch
         Fluent stick self, lets his eyes
Pilot his mouth—snap ...
Does his kind remember? Can our kind forget?

Barbara Howes, “The Lonely Pipefish” from The Blue Garden. Copyright © 1972 by Barbara Howes. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1945-1990 (1995)

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Poet Barbara Howes 1914–1996

Subjects Relationships, Nature, Pets

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Despite being nominated for the 1995 National Book Award for her The Collected Poems of Barbara Howes, 1945-1990, the work of poet Barbara Howes has received relatively little publicity; Robert Richman, writing in the New York Times, called Howes "as obscure a worthy poet as I can think of." Usually alternating her backdrop between the gentle climate of the West Indies and the harsher landscape of her native New England, Howes's . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Nature, Pets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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