My eyes are dates in water, my neck hair
kicks up from cold air; the doctor is listening
to me breathe on her padded table.
When she touches me, I feel curled into ice
lodged as a bullet in the eye, the sight
of piercing through oil-fire over water
She has prepared an ointment for my lips,
the clear dead skin has peeled up like acrylic paint.
A common side effect. Everything terrifies me.
The phone ringing through matrices
uncoiled in copper. Answering, she checks her calendar
—pictures of white fishing boats.
She is thinking of the halibut she caught last summer
off the coast of North Carolina, its hard thresher
against the line, over in an hour. The cold weight
of exhaustion, the sharp pink gills.
They held it with gloves to take the photo;
her friends are laughing as she pretends to kiss it.
The night arrives from the water.
I stare at the ceiling fan, think propeller, birds, something is dead.
The plastic tree in the corner looks like pubic hair,
and I am afraid to look at anyone.
As she began to gut the fish, it gave one last jump
which twisted the blade over her thumb. She shrieked & fell back,
spilling a yellow tank of gasoline.
They washed the deck and her thumb with buckets of seawater
and ate the fish much later than expected.
In the wind chimes, teeth were clanking on string
around the head of a boy with a knife in his mouth
he cannot swallow—
both are laughing, the dawn is rattling out white pills.
Painting Credit: Alexa Pederson