Early Morning Ichthyology


A plastic ID tag threads under their gills
and out their open mouths. State of
is all that’s visible, they eat the name
of their location. There are too many
in the jar—to count correctly would mean
breaking glass or disturbing dust. On the shelf above,
trilobites. Two million years old,
he’d said, from Morocco. Then, good night,
and left the room. I once heard of a librarian
who set out to erase all the letter As in the world
with a black block of wool. She removed them
from signs, from books. Apple became pull
became the force of distance. Her eye,
covered by a moth’s wing. The wool, she found
in the schoolyard in the dirt. Do you believe me
when I tell you these fish miss the mud?
It’s summer. A Morse code message across wires
of a clock radio that’s turned off.
I can’t sleep. LED numbers turn
the room green—a formaldehyde bath
preserving the fish. Their eyes open, too. 

This poem was written when I attended the Napa Valley Writers' Conference.