Little Fishes

The fish, they shimmer,

especially the little ones,

the anchovies, the minnows, the silversides,

in sunny, shallow water.

They do not say to each other,

“You open your mouth too often.”

They do not care who is the quickest.

See how they flow, like fabric in a soft wind.

And they are nothing like fabric.

And the sea is nothing like the wind.



I  want to write, but all I can think about is vacuuming. With vacuuming, there is no fear. Who has ever judged another harshly for that?  Or for cutting the lawn? Digging a garden?

I did all those things and now I am good.

Except, the chaos is still in me.

When the house was up for sale, I insisted that my boys float and not walk. The danger of mud was too great. Each time I walked past an appliance, I whispered, “Do not break down.” This was after a strange and mighty wind blew down the fence and shattered the birch in the front yard.

Quit punking me, I said.

Luckily, I have become a fixer of things. It was never an aspiration of mine or even an interest. It was a necessity.

As I packed up the house, I said to myself, I have a spline roller, but do I really need all this screen? Do I need to keep the window putty? That heavy, heavy miter saw that doesn’t even miter anymore? What about that antique provincial rocking chair that Mom took apart and stripped, the one I’ve been bringing along wherever I move? And what about all the other chairs, the ones I picked up in alleys? Bad habit, this chair thing. I’m not going to have a large dinner party any time soon. I don’t have to carry my history, other people’s history on my back like this.

And now, I am 3 days away from signing off on that house, of putting to rest that time of my life, that was the most difficult, the loneliest. Somehow, I had come to believe that if a person behaved in a manner that never offended, if a person bent and twisted themselves to please others, that future years would be melodic and harmonious. This is the surest route to unhappiness.

It has taken twenty years, but I’ve been turned inside out, in a manner like Smale’s paradox. Inside to outside. Invisible to visible. I still a little jagged from the process, but I expect, with time, I will soften again.

Just don’t punk me.