driftbody at the koi pond

by Annmarie Delfino



The fish enunciate a dumb uhh, no speech I can distinguish. When they reach

          the surface their bubbles of air, when they enter the air, become nothing – 

which is to say, indistinguishable from the rest 

          of itself. Their mouths hinge open as slowly

as the coin purse I unearthed in my mother’s jewelry box, its neat clasp

          two shiny, puckered lips. It fit my palms perfectly – the pleated folds 

that skimmed its sides matched up exactly

          with the creases of my cupped hands. When I pried it 

open, its insides glinted like silk in the light – loose, wine-red, slippery 

          as a kidney – and I never believed, though I’d seen only fabric

a moment before, that, when closed, its little chamber

          didn’t hold coins, just as I never believed my mother

when she denied the koi had swallowed some, brined 

          some children’s wishes in their bellies. Before the pain

of the stones passing, she would say some days

          her kidneys hurt, unable to believe I couldn’t feel mine, nor even point

to where they were supposed to be. Was I young so long as I held this

          inner Nothing intact? I must have filled this in, too – 

my mother as a child, prying the same pouch open

          until it yawned its then-contents into her palm – the choice to leave it empty 

not for lunch money or cigarettes or to blend 

          into the faux velvet of a theater seat

as the lights went down, waiting with bated breath

          for the moment Robert Redford pinwheeled his silk shirts into Mia

Farrow’s pale arms, but to feel then, as I did, when 

          the purse’s sleek-dark interior gleamed at me with the sheen 

of a red fin, when the koi’s maroon scales dimmed 

          as they mottled with the pond’s depth, something as yet

undetectable stir in response.


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