Suppose You Were a Moray Eel

when ancient Romans kept glass aquariums
filled to bubbling with your brothers
and old Licinius Muraena himself loved
to throw slaves in the water, stripping men

to bits. You cannot help it — it’s in your blood.
Witches wear dresses made of your skin,
sleek and gleaming. Don’t you see how they preen
whenever they pass a mirror? In the Ozark mountains,

I met a man who swears cooked eels turn raw
if they are left uneaten and so everyone —
even children — eat them quickly. They don’t want
to feel the slip and bite under their bed sheets

later that night. You move me. You move me anguillform
and backwards, zipping through the sea with only
a quick-stop for shrimp and other creepy crawlies.
Your acorn heart sees the future — does it hold

a Valentine, Be Mine! or a glassy, spectacular car crash?
I am mostly blind, like you, but let us wait here
in this coral cave and count the number of smelt
that swim by. Let them go, all of them.

Wait instead for what your thin veins forecast,
what they decide to pulse for and where.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is Professor of English at State University of New York-Fredonia, where she teaches creative writing and environmental literature. Recent honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of three poetry collections: Lucky Fish (2011), winner of the gold medal in Poetry from the Independent Publisher Book Awards and the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize for Independent Books; At The Drive-in Volcano (2007), winner of the Balcones Prize; and Miracle Fruit (2003), winner of the Tupelo Press Prize, ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award, the Global Filipino Award and a finalist for The Glasgow Prize and the Asian American Literary Award.  Her most recent chapbook is Lace & Pyrite, a collaboration of nature poems with the poet Ross Gay.