You don't hear the waves or sea gulls.
A fish flops in the damp sand where the tide
reached at morning.
Your pale blue eyes are captured
by the way it beats against the grains in
a strange death rhythm.
You have never seen death, never knew it has music,
wet, strained, smacking, thumping, jerking, gasping music.
Sun beats down in one o'clock rays, scales dry, the fish still moves,
but cannot rise into the sound of ocean.
Its eyes bulge and stare. You look for something
in the black eyes, so very different from your own.
Your frozen lips cannot name it, as they named the fish itself,
but still you wonder. Sit quietly in the sand, touch it
with the tips of your fingers, lay your hand around the drying body,
hold it in your slender fingers, cradle the body in your child
arms in the way your mother still protects you at night.
Cradle it, sing it a lullaby, rock it, rock it, gently,
gently into the evening, into the night.
Pick up your blue plastic shovel,
scoop the wet sand until the hole fills with water
to send the fish home in,
because only grownups are buried in the earth.
Touch your lips to its mouth and breathe.
You could have saved it.
Lacie Clark is a graduate student at Cleveland State University in Ohio, pursuing an M.A. in Literature. She has been published in Pacific Coast Journal, Phantasmagoria, and Sliding Uteri. Together with fellow poet, Sue Savickas, she has co-self-published a chapbook entitled Carving Spaces.
© 2006 Lacie Clark