Angler Fish

I find myself with a purse of teeth,
a leather of skin, and a matrix of glow—

I find a deeper world and press myself
down into it. Hovering above the bed

as an angler fish—I see myself and
all my bed-tossing—all my not-sleeping body.

But, I’m the angler fish now and all
the moths come to find me—drowning themselves

to be closer to my beam. Street lamps grow
from the walls—yes that’s all I needed

was a great light to hold me awake. I ask
my angler fish body if fish ever sleep

and the body answers no—never.
I practice opening my mouth: daggers

scraping against each other. There’s
a drawer full of knives somewhere

in the house and I hover through
every single room as the angler fish—

my forehead light only a dull illumination
on the countertops and the picture frames.

I catch my reflection in the windows
and turn away—what kind of animal.

This was supposed to be an ocean.
What I don’t understand is why my body

hates silence as much as auditory clutter:
I wonder if butterflies in a box make sound—

probably a gentle brushing, maybe that’s
what I want. My body invents sounds

for the quiet house. My neighbor upstairs
is talking about me—he’s laughing loudly

he’s saying that downstairs there’s
a boy who turns into all sorts of animals

because he can’t handle his own body. His feet pound on the floor as he turns

into a land creature and I cower. I imagine
angler fish are much more frightened

to be alive than we think. I know I’m
here as an angler fish and all the teeth

and all the bones and all the light
aren’t enough.



A mess of transparent eggs
emerges under my tongue.

The texture talks to me
all day it says “touch”
“touch” “touch” “I’m
viscous” “I’m vicious.”

I check the cluster in the mirror
as the tiny black embryos grow
each day—
I notice fins and eyes,
each bent like commas
or apostrophes.

Each twitch each stir
I feel against my lip—
Their torsos twirling.

My skin is a pleading place,
the punctuation
swimming. I’m becoming
a knot of herring.

I count to try and stay calm.
I say “one baby fish”
“two baby fish” “three baby fish”
and then I count my freckles
and my birth marks
and say “one comma”
“two comma” and so on.

I know you’re going
to ask me why I don’t
just spit the eggs out.
I’m not required to answer that—
I just need them. Don’t you
ever just need something
to keep going?

I need the herring. I need
to watch them grow.
I need to lay, heart throbbing,
Imagining myself as a squall
of herring—

swimming from a faucet
like snow. This is what I need
to imagine.

I’m sorry I have to go,
I have to go,
I have to count them again.



sharp fins
budding on
each knot of
my vertebrae—every
bone an individual shark
making cartilage circus of
all bone corners. A fish is a fish
as long as it carries sharks inside.
Their eyes surface all across my skin—
unblinking and searching for thrashing.
It is important to not show a shark you’re
afraid—especially if the sharks are inside you:
sand shark, hammerhead shark, angel shark cow
shark—then more sharks below those sharks: fear shark,
terror shark, haunted shark, then more without names,
just circling like sharks do in the movies.
I eat meat for the sharks. Cubed beef,
chicken cutlets, slabs of pork, all
of them raw. I’m vegetarian
but if you don’t feed
the sharks they’ll
eat your organs
sharp bodies
severing this ocean
as if it were a carcass.
Sometimes I can’t have
anyone touch me because
of the sharks—they’d frenzy at
all that flesh. They circle faster when
a body gets close to me and I say “no we’re
no going to eat them.” So, the sharks get angry
with me then and they call me names and say they wish
they had emerged in the body of a bolder human.
After we argue though sometimes I love
the sharks. Sharks can’t stop moving
just like me and as they circle
sometimes they weep,
saying how they
dream of chairs
and living rooms
and sleeping. I tell them
that I’m sorry their bodies
are like that. They ask me if we
can please trade—if I can just be
the cluster of sharks and they can get
to live as a human. I swallow cold red meat
to calm them—each piece slipping past my tongue.
I’m worried if I taste the meat I’ll give in and join them.
I walk in circles around the block as a kind
of penance for not resting more
when there are creatures who
can’t. The sharks tell
me I’m a good
human. I
thank them.

ROBIN GOW is the author of the chapbook HONEYSUCKLE by Finishing Line Press. Their poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Roanoke Review. They are the Editor at Large for Village of Crickets and Social Media Coordinator for Oyster River Pages. Their first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from Tolsun Books.