by Nicky Beer
The tank bubbles intermittently,
but there is no tide to sway her into grace.
Turn, and in your peripherals there’s
a sudden flex, a time-lapse lily blossoming
into your blind spot. Trebled, as if by volition,
now spread against almost the entirety
of the glass, she obscures her habitat and commands
you to the entirety of herself, her self-
tossed parachute of cream and coral.
But no—she can never know fully the spectacle
of her fullest extension, her underside
a mystery only glimpsed in walleyed glance,
rather than the awesome totality now
riveting you before the tank’s illumined peep show,
overshadowing the static girandoles
of attendant anemone and starfish.
blooded, three-hearted hedonist, she arches
into Gehry porticoes against the thick plate
addled by green neon, plots for the hour
when she’ll heave herself out during the night
shift, gorge herself on the neighboring scallop
Admit it—her splay and sprawl
has made you blush. Just looking,
you think, as if such an enterprise
were safe, as if she were not
the pupil-Pandora she is,
who can open a jar if only
you’ll teach her.
Nicky Beer is the recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts and a “Discovery”/The Nation award. She’s earned a PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and her poems have been published in Best American Poetry, Indiana Review, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, and elsewhere. (5/2008)