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Luci Shaw

Two Poems

The Golden Carp

All things are parts of a single system called nature.
The individual life is good when it is in harmony with nature.

—Zeno of Citium
The golden carp, over a foot long, glorious,
made more golden by the sun, slides
under his lily pad towards my shadow,
me standing there by the pond,
watching the water striders, those weightless
navigators of the border between us.
Even under water he must sense the knife edge
between shade and blaze. His eyes tilt sideways, up,
his burnished mouth lipping, nudging,
almost breathing my air. I am his fishly dream
of the unknown, which he is not equipped
to explore. He is my vision of alternate reality,
of existence in an atmosphere thicker than air.
So how? Perhaps that small flip of the tail
is saying, Hello there! Can we get together?
Bending, I reach down an answering finger,
touch the surface. The space between us
thins to this sheet sleek as silk. It has to be
enough. Though we share no language,
there is always light, the recognition of an Other.

At the Clinic

On a scale of one to ten …
The doctor leans towards me
with his pad of paper, needing to
record a number for my pain.
I tell him, four for my shoulder,
my hip joint eight, my knee—
not sure, changes with
the weather …
It's the old conundrum—
how to sum up my complaints?
Add them up for his chart?
His difficulty's ancient—
how to feel another's hurt
and rank it. Meanwhile my prayers
for relief rise like thorns.
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