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 at work on a collection of food essays, forthcoming from Ecco. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Kirkus Prize finalist, WORLD OF WONDERS: IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, & OTHER ASTONISHMENTS (2020, Milkweed Editions), which was chosen as Barnes and Noble’s Book of the Year. She has four previous poetry collections and her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of epistolary garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. She is poetry editor for SIERRA magazine and professor of English at the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.