10.3 / May & June 2015

Three Poems


In the library’s sunless depths,
endangered miniscule fish,
each a single scale of crystalline flesh,
cling to the hungry body
of our past—feed on forgotten thought.

In the current of our quiet dark,
we—the we we were—
are fate’s fixed evidence:
nothing more than faded tattoos
on the fins of fish.

People Watching

Whales gather to watch the slow boats swim
into the deep waters. On the decks, pods
of people surface, leaning out, mouths agape,

sucking the salty wind. From all over the world
the whales come to watch. Look, darling, a whale
says, there’s a fat one—see his bulging, white belly.

He’s eating something and taking pictures of us.
The overwhelmed beasts laugh out their blowholes,
spraying water and air. Look by the stern, an old one

is throwing up in the water—that’s so gross.
Another whale says, Relax, that’s natural, sweetie.
You’d throw up too if you tried to swim on land.

Look, there, that’s what I wanted to see—those two
on the bow are touching their finger fins, look
how close they are. You can tell they know each other.

The whales wait; sure enough, little things fall
from the boats to the warm water: a plastic bottle cap,
car keys, a piece of gum. On good days, someone drops

a camera, and the last image fixed on the display,
a tiny digital whale, sinks into the darkness
to the sandy floor cluttered with Canons and Kodaks,

all having forgotten their images of the dry world.
The whales swim close to the bobbing boats
to hear the people sounds—gasps and moans,

giggles and grunts—and to watch the lucky
coins fall. They fall from every boat.
The whales turn under when a bright coin pierces

the surface near them. Tails to the sky, the whales push
downward to follow the coin’s spinning and tossing light
until they find themselves in the familiar darkness

where they once again wonder what the people do
when whales aren’t there to watch them.

The Shape of Things

His kid bends the medical pictures
of Mommy’s appendectomy, points
at a white ball, an ovary exposed
in the surgeon’s light, and asks, Mommy,

is that an egg? Children grasp something
intuitive about shapes that we don’t—can’t
remember how. Long ago, we abandoned the joy
of pressing our fingers into earth, forsook the freedom

of catching and chucking the tetherball, deserted
the complex texture of alphabet blocks, rejected
the teasing bounce of the bouncy ball, blocked out
the same iron taste in blood and dirt, and forgot

the right way to answer the question, What
is your favorite shape?, which should be, I like green,
green triangles, and Easter eggs with silly spots,
and Jessica dropped my egg on the floor, and

I cried and wiped my wet lines on Mommy’s shirt,
her soft-shaped shirt. Now, having escaped
childhood, life’s last roller coaster,
the father does not wonder. He simply asks the Doc

when can we get on the road, and can she lift
the children, these pudgy little trapezoids?

Gary Dop—poet, performer, and playwright—is an English professor at Randolph College. His work appears widely in literary journals, including New Letters, PANK, Agni, Poetry Northwest, and Sugar House Review. Dop’s first book of poems Father, Child, Water is new from Red Hen Press.
10.3 / May & June 2015