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 the author of four collections of poems, including, most recently, Oceanic, winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and two essay collections, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, and the forthcoming Bite by Bite: Nourishments and Jamborees. Other awards for her writing include fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Mississippi Arts Council, and MacDowell. Her writing appears in Poetry, the New York Times MagazineESPN, and Tin House. She serves as poetry faculty for the Writing Workshops in Greece and is professor of English and creative writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.