The Other Side of Water


Just what is missing in us, that needs so many worlds?
-Alan Williamson, Sleep


Sundays, after the toreros have thrown down
their swords and tight sunlight

jackets, we eat bulltail for luck,
listen with our skin to the castanets’ chatter,

fly bit, over the country’s bad teeth,
off the causeway into the sea. Over and over,

we’ll jump. All afternoon, if we want.
Never quite the same splash,

but always the same sand as our toes hit bottom,
the quick, hard swim toward the sun.

Once, a thousand tiny fish—
you never even felt them as they scattered.

Together again, they made a chain-mail curtain
out by the flamenco club on the pier.

You said we’d get that kind of intuition
if we could only learn to swim off the whirlpools

we create. Tap into our lateral lines.
Back on the other side, we’ll remember

it differently. The fishmongers on the street corner
will open their chests,  and they will be empty.

The magnolia trees bloom in August,
stand bare in May. You and I will want

to go searching again. The memory of that body
of fish in water, the way they moved

with everything, held
the light, the waves.


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Mary Kovaleski Byrnes' poems have appeared in Guernica, Salamander, [PANK], Best of the Net, and elsewhere. Her first book of poems, So Long the Sky, is forthcoming from Platypus Press in spring of 2018. She teaches writing and literature at Emerson College, where she helps run the EmersonWRITES program.