On the stone bridge children watch for the koi to reappear, the dull grey one like a model submarine,
the orange and white one – languid, deliciously creamy. Then suddenly here they are, indifferent
in their leisurely Celtic swirls, swimming close to the surface in these shallow waters,
so disproportionate to their dwelling that the children are amazed that the tame
could grow to such a size, could bear to be so confined. As they themselves refuse to be confined,
chasing and whooping into the garden’s silence. The men and women take pains to observe the quiet
and whisper as though, even this early in autumn, ice has sealed the pond in a film of cloudy wax
and the koi have settled to sleep on the bottom. But the children want to splash and laugh, trying
to catch hold of the fishes’ tails as they flash, to knock together wet stones, making the sound
a bamboo fountain makes as it kisses the rocks. Why, they wonder, all this raising of fingers to lips?
Or lowering eyelids, and barely breathing? Why do adults fold in on themselves like toys on a shelf?
Susan Gubernat’s most recent poetry collection, The Zoo at Night, won the Prairie Schooner book award and was published by the University of Nebraska Press. An opera librettist as well as a poet, she is Professor Emerita of English at California State University, East Bay. Gubernat was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey and now lives in San Francisco. Website: susangubernat.com.
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