Missing [My mother is a fish …]

My mother is a fish, Vardaman repeats, in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, as his family builds his dying mother’s coffin. My favorite novel in college. It comes back now. On the beach on my pink bike wearing my mother’s too tight bathing suit I ride as fast as I can past dead fish after dead fish, choked by the algae. Deprived of oxygen, they must have thrown their bodies gasping on the sand. Like my mother, I think, unable to breathe, dying, and then am aghast at my own terrible metaphor, which she would hate. If I waded out in the water, color of rust, color of blood, if I let the water close over my head, would that lessen the distance between us?

Copyright © 2022 by Nicole Cooley. This poem was first printed in Court Green, Issue 21 (Fall 2022). Used with the permission of the author.