The day you died and I, two thousand miles away, took
my anguish to the shallow bay, and under the water
I wasn’t expecting that one enormous filefish feeding
between my mask and snorkel and the nearby rocky shore: fish
I’d seldom seen and then
only in much
deeper waters, never this big.
A solitary, secret
It saw me, too. I hung
transfixed, easy in the hands of
salty water all
the whole long while it worked its slow, mellifluous grace
up and down
every slender branch of sea grass, nibbling whatever fish nibble,
locking its gaze
with mine the whole long while, it’s long, triangular snout
puckered, as though ever
ripe for a kiss.
Three years ago today
this happened. I wrote it down, just found
my notes. How
could I have forgotten? You,
ever ripe for a kiss, or whatever little
I might give, which was too little to please you, we almost stopped
I wanted you not
enough, you said. Not
true. But I wanted
also to be true to another, who (yes) is my whole life, even more
I wanted not to be split in two. And you,
in your dying, who swore there is no there,
who asked what I meant when I said
If it’s there, come back. Tell me:
fish that all the fish books say
shouldn’t be in this water, too shallow, I’m sorry.
All that whole long terrible day I’d been dumbfounded only by
such unexpected grief for someone I’d loved oh, so many light years ago.
Mystery Fish, Yal-Ku Lagoon
Who wouldn’t want to name it, this bright
orange-finned wonder no longer than my little
finger, its cream-colored body tinged with yellow,
and two prominent stripes from mouth through eye,
and mouth to gill: black and the most neon aqua blue
ever a fish could wish for?
Who wouldn’t fall in love, right there, and want
to know with whom? For no known reason beyond
her own curiosity, closer and closer she ventures, toward my
alien face mask, checking me out, at last so close
I could, were I impetuous, touch her. Oh, I could hang
suspended all day and more, above her pale gold
limestone shelf, so close to the water’s surface it’s warm in all
kinds of weather, the perfect nursery.
Or is this fish full grown?
The closest I come in all of my fish books is maybe a juvenile
Schoolmaster Snapper, which sounds so harsh and disapproving
I refuse to believe it: nothing like this mild
miracle who blazes gently, despite my klutzy chivalry,
in all of her stunningly unconscious heraldry,
out of the shadows and into my joy.