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two poems /rose demaris

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Fish Wife

Why does it hurt to see them? he wondered. Why do they arouse?—blood-red accordions of gills rough against his fingers. The filaments collapsed when he pulled her out, her pair of delicate fans feathering for oxygen that would not come. Behind the boathouse he removed the hook, breathed into her mouth. His tongue touched her dying part, taught her a new way to be.

Now she pads every morning on high-arched feet into the carpeted room where her three children sleep, their eyes not quite shut, each slit crusted in dried saline. She rides the train downtown, or tries a coral lipstick, cancels lunch, carries the outgrown toys to the curb. A peculiar beauty. Timid. And easily sunburned.

No one knows about the old entries to her body— blurred pink scars beneath the birthday choker of 18-karat gold. But some ancient space between her words makes the neighbors ache, and she also aches in the nightly bath, almost remembering

that mute earlier life, the yielding grasses bent by a gesture much bigger than her husband’s, a hand that scalloped every granular edge of Earth, how she drifted under it in unbroken beams of blue-green light.



No back gate tendrilled with placenta vine, no water-birth video, no framed vows or rhubarb recurring May after May. I only have these empty palms and a small metal trailer after four decades spent burning wicks before the icons of Family, Garden, Home. No baggie of milk teeth beneath bras in the top drawer. I have myself alone. But in the evening when the rock dove chants just so and the little red bell of my frontal lobe rings, I break down, inhabit the core of what I most want: I enter those escaped curls, black commas on the back of her neck, and rest in her pauses while she decides what to do with me next. My nightgown swells from the breath she blows into cherubim arrows that bend, like lilacs, to her bee intensity. I’m one chip in the coral of her bottom lip, ruddy with the tiny bones of every endearment murmured from age to age by spouses in four-poster beds, where she has deep roots, and leaves stains—that One who gives and who sometimes withholds, who concocted this moment, this heartbeat for me out of saline, neroli, and mercury— I come to life in her. I am in Love.


Rose DeMaris‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, Image Journal, Roanoke Review, Qu, Vassar Review, Cold Mountain Review, and elsewhere. Rose is a poetry MFA candidate at Columbia University, where she also teaches creative writing.

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