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@ AWP


I love the majesty of glowing invertebrates—

jellyfish, anemone, deep coral, slinking eels, subtle instinct depths I don’t know

but I’m afraid of water;

later, the woman on the hotel tv said

something awful about oil,

chemicals, and translucent

plastic domes.

Things make their own light in vast depths.

Vast is a meaning and no word—

no call center, no registration.

Vast only sorts out its years when tired of being vast.

That{in which will bite,}

compose vast.

What organic chemicals compromise me,

what appears from depths I don’t know

to strike my body in places I don’t know.

The webbing between my fingers and toes

is the soft stringing jellyfish flesh,

my fingernails are hard points of blue crab.

The Earth tastes salty, too.

I fear from fields of tall grasses and flowers

for insects and holes buried by things I don’t know,

because what I don’t know is a hole

I’m so far in—

will they join me?

Are these riders

approaching from distant lands I don’t know and from

directions I’ve yet to go?

Like desert beige and mountain brown

there were tables,

tables of books, shiny and new.

There was white, dark blue,

comfortable letters, mastheads,

there was watercolor

and there were the silhouettes of trees, always.

There were skinny boys with beards,

scruff, tight pants, golden brown hair, some like a lion’s mane,

some like grains pushed to the side of where a shadow pours into tracks

left through a desert.


Prepare to me like hands dust.

There were girls with glasses and shaggy streaks of blonde

in brown or oily tan hair. There were button up shirts and tight sweaters there

like emblems on flags. There were genders with escutcheons.

They look hopeful,

the look I see from behind slab after slab of glass

in the aquarium. They looked the fish they pour into the biggest tank—

that’s where the bigger fish have learned every line, every crevice;

they are waiting there.

There was a frog at the aquarium.

It pressed its hands to the wall and it looked out with languid yellow eyes.

There was a girl with a black coat and oversize flower talking on her cell phone in the lobby the whole time.

I saw her there after 8 hours of lectures and working the table,

and I kept a broadside for myself.




Russell Jaffe