What is it?

by Pamela Crowe

I

We stood around it on the sand, five of us
poking sticks at it.
What is it? they asked.
It was red and filleted, soft, pink, prone
placental
and the dregs
of something having ebbed, now drowsy.
Is it a fish? he asked.
No. Not a fish, I said.
It’s not moving, she said.
No, I said.
What is it though? he asked.
Their tiny sticks pushing and flicking.
Stop it.
Stop it, that’s enough. Leave it, I said.
But it’s dead.
No, I said. I don’t think so.

II

I saw it, love’s
vast attempt to live
past tolerance and pity
past hope and what’ll be.
They pulled drift and weed around it
to make it seem more dead
and ribboned off to play in cute directions
made sense only by the freezing wind.
I stood near to it collecting pebbles
watching over till we had to leave.