What Rough Beast | Poem for April 21, 2017

Maya Jewell Zeller
spell for conjuring order: Pleuronectiformes

this is the spell I cannot speak/ the one that has me flattened/ both eyes on the surface/ the sky/ the upper margin/ born again in debris, in the feces of the ocean floor/ you say you feel a renewal/ whenever we talk/ the body of text justified/ against each slender wall/ I call you morphogenetically unusual/ I call you on the phone/ I call you bilaterally symmetrical at birth/ at birth you had eyes on each side/ this is the spell I cannot speak/ the one that leans to one side/ like a backslash/ like back lash/ or wash/ I tell young people you don’t break a line; you compose it/ I tell them a poem is conjured like a spell/ meanwhile I conjure the spell I can’t speak/ on the page I seek you/ after several days the upright fish begins leaning/ the way a person does after years in Idaho/ in my state they call this brainwashing/ everyone knows I’m a sucker for laying the gray matter flat/ & scrubbing/ everyone knows I could give a shit about grammar/ everyone knows I’m a slut for confession/ an open mouth, a summer/ a woman saying things I wish I could say/ my friend says she found my soul mate/ in the middle of all this, she says its gunter grass and he’s dead/ go figure/ she shows me a page of text in which the speaker milks a squid/ she knows I’ll find this sexy & reassuring/ we all know I’ve been making phone calls while writing this down/ the squid takes some coaxing, like pleasuring a mermaid/ I read from a script that demands the resignation of another government asshole/ I demand your resignation immediately/ did you know when the fish leans sideways its eye migrates? / I can well imagine both milking a squid and the inky current of a mermaid’s pleasure/ as for the fish, both eyes end up on one side/ I’m not even kidding/ I take fish very seriously/ Of course over here we cannot stop talking/ there’s such a high call volume I cannot get through/ I leave a message imploring the Senator/ I think next of conjuring you/ With this development/ a number of other complex changes in bones, nerves, and muscles occur/ and the underside of the flounder loses its colour./ As an adult the fish lives on the bottom,/ with the eyed side uppermost/& probably this will result in more phone calls/ and several revisions of syntax/ and some inside jokes / by inside, I mean, inside my own puny matter/ everyone knows I’m a slut for the gray matter/ I could go on/ but we both know I can’t go on—


Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of Rust Fish (Lost Horse Press, 2011) and Yesterday, The Bees (Floating Bridge Press, 2015). She lives in the Inland Northwest with her family.

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