My Emotions Are Like Fish


Mostly they live in the dark
underwater weed-slithering
currents and worry about

being swallowed up by their
more furious brethren.
Some of them have eyes

perched atop long thin stems
like flowers. And some
have forty or fifty arms

pocked with suction cups
to help them stick to things
and will squirt black

clouds of ink to keep
themselves concealed. Others
resemble subtropical

dottybacks or scaleless deepsea
gulper eels, with their
velvety bodies, zipper teeth,

and whip-like tails. The fearsome
dragonfish—likewise the
viperfish, hatchetfish,

and bristlemouth—all find their
corollaries in the Red Sea
of my heart. Even

the phantom glass catfish,
entirely translucent except
for its intestines,

is no stranger to my feelings.
The unforthcoming among them
behave just like shovelnose

stingrays who flop right down
in the bottom-ooze and flick
the muck up over them.

But some of them, when they
swim too near the surface,
find themselves suddenly

exalted, lifted and flying
through the air, wind-filled,
sunlight-sharpened sky

expanding around them, high
above their proper element—
birdclaws sunk into their backs.


–from Sea of Faith; first published in The Southern Review