A fish in the hand is an electrical charge,
wet life twitching for water.
I couldn’t kill it.
A fish feels nothing like skin.
I gave it to my brother and he clubbed it hard: once, twice on the top
of the skull, then a glazed quiet
in the bottom of our boat. It’s summer,
the girls are learning they’re beautiful.
My lazy-eyed sister, sixteen and golden,
my dark cousin with her bra made of string—they wear chokers
of shells, white shells like teeth
and old flannel shirts unbuttoned and frayed—
faded blue of the lake at dusk,
faded green of the island in rain.
They understand the shirts only make them more lovely.
They know how the razor irritates the skin, chafe
and burn at the delicate leg crease, as they oil themselves
and braid themselves, and on the boathouse deck they murmur
and paint, the harsh smell of acetone
rising from their toes. It’s summer,
my mother is fishing from the dock. She arcs the rod
back over her head, whips
the invisible line to the rock pile, and reels
slowly, watching the water, her silver-blue
rapala swimming unfinned.
Rustle of the stashed sail
rolled around the mast. Rustle of the wind-sock, hush
of the deciduous. Half the long morning
we’re drunk with sleep. Black tea with milk,
milky tea with sugar, we stagger the cabin until the dreams disperse,
so many, so vivid, like feathers or milkweed,
silk floating behind our eyes.
If we try to trap them
they drift away, spinning. Sleep
is a fish in Maine, it swims
all night in the cabin’s dark,
in a lake made of blankets, an underground room, all of us
in our deep private drowning
before we wake and gasp, rinse off our faces, and I peel
the curling scroll from the white birch
and write it all down again.
#MAINE #FAMILY # SUMMER #POETRY # CREATIVITY