Through flesh, muscle, water your hand
nudges my hand – recoils. Ticking over
in salt-water, you heal. Then your arm
extends, meets my palm – you lean on me:
shy, listening. Alluvium of churned
fluid, settling
and I think of the fumy
stomach of our old pond, how the bottled
light of Koi rose, let me tickle their cilia
fins, the clitoral stem beneath. I wanted
them lumped in my cupped hands, to coax
down a shiny, bumping heart the way
I’d stroke a tablet down the dry throat
of a dog. They were lethal: eyes
and scales wild as head-lights; confusion
of fish-flesh, and sunless reflection.
I did ram a hand wrist-deep (into water
so bitter it numbed the bones), and they
subsided from sight, stunned and hurt.
Night drained the garden. I was called in
to the meaty steam of dinner, windows
solidifying against the pond until I couldn’t
see it and forgot,
but in the pond’s agitation
the fish soothed, lifted with a bovine,
unthinking grace, like difficult memories –
that tremendous, unstoppable blossoming.

from Broken Sleep (Bloodaxe, 2009), © Sally Read 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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