Catalogue of Strange Fish

From the unfathomed, farthest away from the light, from the sea’s
iron guardedness they come — 

pin-eyed, with flesh like tree bark. Their jaws are gorgeously spiked,
ragged with toothpick teeth, goon teeth, prison-bar teeth.

O anglerfish, vampire fish, oarfish, goonch. A strange fish holds himself
upright and fast to the park railings. He is white knuckled.

His eyes focus upwards as if counting or reciting, tugging at the brain’s
stubborn pinions. When you ask if there’s somewhere

he needs to get to, he only sets his jaw harder. You both know that if he
acknowledges you, he’ll fall. Every one of your dreams

is about the president, however tangentially. Each morning, 
mucid insects seem to attach themselves

to your collarbone and gnaw in at the marrow. What if we could all say
whatever came first to mind, whenever we wanted to? No

perusal. Scullion! Arse-wipe! Warp-faced pignut! Invincible as a body
that’s snug in the womb. What if we could all get

whatever we wanted, whenever — as in the fairy tale? On the beach
at Marazion the surf is spangled with mackerel scales.

The sands heave with stranded bodies, underwater silver bullets, drying
and curling up in the winter light, so close to home.


This poem originally appeared in The Poetry Review. You can read the other poems in this exchange in the May 2017 issue.

Source: Poetry (May 2017)