Scales

Soon, we’ll forget the names of fish.
They’ll slip from us in sleep.

Stickleback, lamprey, a labyrinth
of bones undone, the border of last

night’s dream. Who can guess
at the minutes left, those flashes

in the shallows? More than one
morning a river’s laid down at our feet.

Which of our wrongs does a fish hear?

We’re speaking as if we’ve never
known gills, never leapt in air.

We’re speaking as if we didn’t
arise from water. The way their

mouths open—bonytail, bullhead,
chub and perch—hinge-slow,

portals we could enter,
see for ourselves how to swim through the dark.


Sharon Pretti’s work has appeared in Nostos, Spillway, Calyx, MARGIE, The Bellevue Literary Review, and is forthcoming in JAMA. She’s an award winning haiku poet and frequent contributor to Modern Haiku and Frogpond. She works as a medical social worker in San Francisco and leads poetry groups for seniors and disabled adults.

Lanternfish illustration by C.B. Auder (digital collage).

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