The Girl with Fish for Hair

by Thomas Zimmerman

The girl with fish for hair swam in the stream
that feeds the wide Ohio -- so the freed
slave's son maintained, his eyes turned pearls, his dream
of ships and Egypt morphed to jazzman's reed.

Phoenician sailors, Yankee whalers -- those
who've seen her yearned for art because the world,
which seems all hers, then wounded them, and throes
of guilt propelled the song, the salt clay hurled

on potter's wheel, the earth's first alphabet.
She reigns in Baikal, Marianas, Lake
Superior; she drinks the dreamt regret
that swirls in Lethe, laps the artist's wake.

Our plainsongs, paintings, totems, tomes on shelves—
all hers, yet we who see her see ourselves.

Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits two literary magazines at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, MI. Poems of his have appeared recently in Poor Mojo's Almanac(k), Yellow Mama, and Abandoned Towers. He thinks the mask that would choose him would be the one he wears to work: that of a caring, enthusiastic educator; he says it fits his face exactly.

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