1. "All blood should be saved"- How to Stay Alive in the Woods

Topaz ?
Author Topaz ?

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.  


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