Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

A Fish Story

Richard Schiffman

Eventually he darted out of himself
like a minnow through a gap
in a shark’s barred teeth

flashed past the rippling light show of the reef
to purple shrouded canyons, deep, then down
and down through wavy curtains

to plumblessness itself
where thought drifts weightless
in the heart’s unceasing swell.

He could have stayed forever in that black,
a schooling fish gone AWOL from the pack –
unschooled, unbridled and alone.

Yet ghostly all around him he did sense
the pulsing of his multitude of selves,
a thousand finning versions of his life.

But since he knew that he alone could be,
he swallowed these pretenders one by one –
and then was swallowed tail first by himself.


Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist and author of two biographies. In addition to Queen’s Quarterly, his poems have appeared in the New York Times, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and on the BBC. His latest poetry collection, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published by Salmon Poetry.