fish and eye poem
by jessica modi (university of virginia)
There were more fish kills than usual last summer.
In the canal behind my house
a thousand little fish rose and fell
as one iridescent sleeve of a tattered bay
blowing a pungent film onto land.
The fish float with one bowed eye
facing up, gills stiff from oxygen
depletion—a thousand black eyes swell
to the edge of the dock where I lay.
Two weeks earlier, crammed in the air-conditioned cabin,
I traveled fourteen hours by train–the only female
among hundreds of male eyes. Every shadowed pupil
watched slow undulations of my feigned sleep.
All summer I slept with the smell of fish:
At night my sheets grew too sweaty, tight on my legs.
There are moments when you suffocate,
strange inside, everyone watching,
and you imagine boredom in a new body.