“Bright Red Bit” by Charlotte Seley

Charlotte Seley


When our beta died, we dumped him
bowl and all into the Susquehanna. O
I was so sad without a fish. The dark bellowing
ring in the wood where the bowl once was—
Why didn’t we save even one marble?
As I sprinkled his food into the river, Jeff said
You killed it and I knew he didn’t mean the fish.
Sometimes I’d walk down Hawley if only
to see if a bowl was floating in the glints
of diurnal water. I like to think our fish is in
the river now and I swear I saw a bright red bit
at the bottom, unlike how we found him—
cadaver grey. When I die, I do not really want
my possessions with me down there, returned to earth.
Just stuff I pulverized into a nurturing. My home,
for one, as rotten as it was. The red Solo cups
on the porch, the secondhand bed, dirty
tube socks and loose threads of tobacco in the carpet.
I left before the flood but I hoped our fish
would come back, a message in a bottle
uncorked. The message might’ve said: Always
be an endless stream of regeneration,
which was sad since that was impossible
for us. We were more like the glass bowl, might’ve been
screaming until it broke. I was always underwater
with our fish swimming through the little crevices of
the plastic castle and the rainbow flakes of food,
the debris in the river and the cardboard boxes full
of things I could never take with me when I die.
If I could give you a message from the Susquehanna,
it would say that there’s a limit to perseverance.
How our fish must’ve known his sighs were numbered
when I noticed his tattered fins as fragile as broken harps
while unhooking frames from the wall, packing boxes.
That fish was what I loved about the Southern Tier
and there is nothing like the love for something
that will never love you back.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems


Charlotte Seley: “I’m not sure why I write but I know it began with Robert Creeley. And even that is a poor response since what drew me to Creeley was the clever way he broke his lines and forced the reader to think of all the words that weren’t there or perhaps fell off in the enjambment. Nonetheless, it’s an obsession now, and I served as poetry editor and editor-in-chief of Redivider and I am a current poetry reader for Ploughshares.”

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