My sister fish with delicate ribs,
The way you re-circle, all tautness and loose, is
No bluish wound your fin ad-libs
But blood under skin without contusion;
And your moist eyes in water are useless;
Tears go dry; I never use them.
My sister fish with delicate bones
As straight and helical as a caduceus,
Some scintillant blades your rippling hones
That cut the wavelets’ faceted diadem;
But your winged gills on land are useless;
Gasps grow weak; I never try them.
Brother Cathartes, you will test the air
To find me in millions whose death is detectable;
One part per billion’s enough for a prayer;
Canopic jars will be left to collect till
Heat and your circling priests prepare
This creature of water, drying and delectable.
NOTES for Students of English
Caduceus – (pronounced ka-DU-see-us) In mythology, a winged staff with two serpents twined around it, carried by Hermes; a similar staff used as the symbol of the medical profession.
Cathartes – (pronounced ka-THAR-teez, th as in “thick”) – The genus of North American vultures. They have a keen sense of smell.
One part per billion – A ratio of molecules measuring the sense of smell; here suggesting one man among a billion people.
Canopic jars – (pronounced ka-NŌ-pik) In Ancient Egypt, the jars in which the internal organs of the deceased were preserved, usually for burial with the mummy.