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This Body Which Is Water We Call Home

                                    Michael Schmeltzer


The rib cage like a crab on its back.
The surgeon like a pirate

opening a chest, gloved hands
holding the treasure

of a sunken heart. Often I mistake
the ocean for our home.

Systole, diastole, synonymous
with ebb and flow. What myth

mentions the mermaids
dragging sailors underwater,

which one has them
as their saviors, kissing oxygen

into their drenched lungs?
It doesn’t matter

how often we sing the names
of the drowned; they scatter

like fish, we the children
tapping out syllables

on the aquarium of heaven.
In a hospital in Seattle,

my lover placed her ear
against her dead mother’s stomach

like a little girl listening
to a delicate seashell:

the drone of waves
and a rip current of grief

towing her steadily from shore.


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