“Resurrection” by Nancy Miller Gomez

Nancy Miller Gomez


When I was five my brother convinced me
to perform mouth to mouth on a catfish
floating belly up in the scum that gathered
in the lake behind our house. He said I had the power
to bring it back, though it was my choice.
I followed his directions, leaned over the dock,
pressed my lips against the stiff ridge of its mouth
(while keeping its bloated body submerged
beneath the oily sheen) and began to breathe in
and out as I opened and closed the bony folds
of its gills. At first, my brother held my ankles, to steady me
so I wouldn’t fall off the dock. I kept breathing
in through my nose­—­sting of creosote and pond rot—
and out through my mouth—a soft exhale of prayer.
You already know I did not bring the fish back to life,
though it wasn’t for lack of trying. I kept breathing
into that dark opening long after my brother said to quit,
long after he got bored and wandered off,
and the setting sun bathed the brackish water in gold.
I kept breathing in and out, long after the night cooled,
and the stars rose, and my mother found me asleep
on the dock, her voice calling me back from that place,
where the fish turned its rapturous eyes away from the moon,
and dove back to its sanctuary of darkness.

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024


Nancy Miller Gomez: “My childhood home was on a small lake in Kansas. I spent many happy hours there fishing with my brother. But I was terrified of the catfish. They looked like nightmares dredged up from a bad dream with their slimy, mottled skin, wide-set, gelatinous eyes, mouths open and groping and all those tentacle-like whiskers. I don’t know if my brother ever convinced me I could bring a dead thing back to life. Perhaps I have mis-remembered it. But ‘Resurrection’ is an attempt to capture my child-desire to believe in myself.” (web)

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