To the damselfish I am nursemaid and knight

and high white tower. I’m surrounded

by their spawning. It’s the way the world works; I am the slayer

and the slain, anemone in soil or sand or burgess

shale, not thin filament, not delicate petal. None of those

things we savor, bold red stabs and stems that bind us

numb. I am not a collection

of petals to be plucked one by one. I am not hothouse red.

But if I could, I’d tip these hundred fingers to feet

and let the surf shrink me to pistil and stamen

and thirsting root. Tell me this body is enough, that its bend

and sway will lure the little fishes to my tentacles. Tell me

the ocean will snow a thousand starfish to my mouth.




All these little virgins, hunched

under their hoods, breaking up

their bones, their prayers redacted,

apocryphal women, eyebrows threaded

and pubis trimmed. Sometimes it all ends


with water, with waking, until the mirage

dries up or becomes. Sometimes mothers

huddle in blankets, and the small space

between bedframe and baseboard

isn’t enough to squeeze me


silent. Then I wonder about sound

at the bottom of the lake, the quiver

of diatoms rippling off sturgeon

and pumpkinseed, how each wave

is a knot of throats reaching for air.


Rebecca Pelky earned her MFA from Northern Michigan University. Before returning to school to write poems, she worked at zoos for 13 years, where she was once run over by a giraffe. Her poems have appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, Calliope, Dunes Review, Dirty Chai, Yellow Medicine Review, and elsewhere.