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One Fish, Two Fish

Downstairs, dolphins eat minnows, schoolgirls shriek,
And dirty water gets them cold.  A creak
Upstairs, the escalator steps spread flat
To marble tile.  The hallways echo, matte.
Hushes are palpable.  Blue lights loom dim
And glass reflects the fish.  They never swim
Or float, but hang as if translucent strings 
Dangle from a puppet master’s hands, no swings
Or sways.  The electric eel, like a ponytail
Just cut, falls round, loops big.  His sliding scale
Bodes seizures, volts, charged minus, plus, the prey
Of a thousand aimless eyes dare straightaway
In opposite directions—iris black,
Pupil black.  Think; if you could break and ply
The ball out from the socket, gouge the eye
Apart, it’d leak a piceous plasma in
The murky water, ribbons, floss, lace-thin
Eels birthed from ovate wombs.  The angler gapes.
One fish.  Two fish.  The filtered air reshapes
The fixed depiction.  Three fish.  Four.  And still
Resumes.  Red fish.  Blue fish.  A Rockcod’s gill
Yawns open.  Damselfish say, Take me, Take
Pie Jesu.  Black mollies borrow sake
From Pete and pity.  Every fish stands there
Legless, their eyes rolled back, a mal de mer
Mellifluous and motionless: a turn
Without a turn, a gag without the burn-
ing swallow.  Mercy—one fish, two—the sea
Of artifice and animality
Distends and flattens: my own face and three
Bubbles from a barb as if to say, This is me. 

by Erica Dawson