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.