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Fall 2003, Volume 21.1



Cathy Calkins

Cathy Calkins is a poet living in New Mexico. Her poetry has appeared in Salt Hill, The Hurricane Review, Agnieszka's Dowry, Electric Acorn and Neonatal Review.


Geography Lesson

Thumb hooked in a serrated gill,
I cradle the body in my left hand.
Held upside down, the belly is blanched,
fins still flailing against my palm
swimming for open water.
My daughter crouches beside me
at water's edge, rapt attention
to this butchery. I guide a scalpel
stolen from work, meant for thicker flesh.
The point finds the anus, then slices true
to the throat, a popping of skin and gristle
as the twitching stills.
There is so little blood.
Spread, meat-covered ribs open,
exposing wet organs the colors of maps—
liver-pink Brazil, spleen-yellow Mexico,
gray intestines the ridges of Arctic ice
wet with migratory waters. A female:
caviar in ropes of black pearls,
plucked to float downstream, returning
to their ancestral deep.


Midnight, July 5th

Reflected lights from the parking lot
arc across the darkened ceiling.
I know I will not sleep tonight,
my mind crowded with driftwood:
splinter-sized, sharp, piercing
the inner eyelids.

I consider the cricket, singing a last song
against the music of distant firecrackers.
He too will go the way of his brother—
a small dried corpse dropped at my feet
by the cat in from his prowl.
The cricket understands transformation:
cicada season beginning, the earth
giving up metamorphosed bodies
after seventeen years of slumber.

How must it be to sleep so long?
Dreams of a collective instinct—
ascension from the cool underworld,
repeated endlessly until waking
to emerge into a sluggish déjà vu.


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