How broken the fish must have looked
coming up out of the lake, the lake water
falling back into the opening
the fish came out of. That is, if one can look
broken and not just be the thing
that is flawed, faulted, hauled up by the line
and its strange double syllable: Sorry. Sorry.
Like his mother, who died. Or his stepmother,
sorry, who sent him to bed again and again
without his supper
because he sketched the light from every angle
and came home late.
His sister, in his defense, bit the side
out of her water glass.
She would have emptied her mouth.
Even the maiden aunts who took him in
would have walked the long way back
from their spinsters’ heaven.
Their sorrow might have cut his string
of jobs, or tied him to the earth long enough
for me to remember. He could have turned around
and said, So this is what it is to hook the sky’s
flat canvas. Tossed it back. Cast again.
But everything turned swift as a sentence.
Headaches, like grapnels, descended
from the trees. His lungs devoured themselves,
his body vanished.
Can you see that someone drowned in all that air?
I imagine it now
as one long Sunday: a wooden door
the solemn light could pool behind.
The white sheets rippling back from his body
as if they, too, were sad.
The end is simple. When he left
it was the beginning of all our lives—
as if someone swallowed
and the earth began to turn again.
After the fish, there are no more stories.