M E Silverman
Recently, my daughter brings home a Red-Lipped Batfish she won at her school raffle. In a clear bag. In her lunchbox. What could we do? We put it in our tank, centered between the living room and the dining room. Following the hand-written notes in teacher-red, we learn this crab-like fish is found three meters down around the Galapagos Islands, or possibly near Peru, to feed it worms and tiny shrimp. When my daughter goes to school, it spends the day staring, unblinking. Mouth, opening and closing. Teeth, cone-shaped. Lips, pouting, date-night red. Face, swollen, grave-dark. It stays dead-center. Waiting. Plotting, like a comic-book villain. Small golden hairs around the mouth wiggle whenever I move across the room. Can it escape? Can it breathe air?
My mouth, dry;
my brow sweats.
One night, I wake to the sound of soft humming interspersed by an inaudible sing-song. La de da, la de da. I find my daughter ghost-quiet in her penguin pajamas, holding her favorite doll, standing before the tank. The Red-Lipped Batfish’s dorsal spine projects an illicium that sticks out of the top of its head and gives off this charming glow. I try to turn her away. To move myself away. To go and warn you.
Except there is this song, this light,
this beautiful bright light—
M. E. Silverman
had 2 books of poems published and co-edited Bloomsbury’s Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust
and 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium