The Pipefish

Alice Friman

Monogamous, they live apart

but every day she leaves her rocky


crevice in the reef to visit him in his,

and slender as two grasping fingers


they hook on and twirl, rubbing bellies

to sweeten their bond. No fights, no mean


words, no great stirrings of the waters, just

this intimate dangle braiding together


in the privacy of a cove. The rubbing

is for the transfer of eggs from her pouch


to his belly, for like their cousin, the seahorse,

it's the male who plays mother. But why


must we read each purple notion through

the scrim of biology? Is there not more


to the everyday life of a sea creature

than eat or be eaten and the frenetic


passing of the genes? In the vast

arms of the sea, their dance takes place


in the smallest of hideaways, no one to see

or judge. Ah, the gentle intimacies


of the long-married, having memorized

each other’s bow-bend of the back, the flex


of each muscle as they twist and belly rub

to a music only they can hear. Oh husband,


honey of my hive, let us get up from this couch

where we sit each night in the dark nodding off


before the flickering screen. Have we come

this far only to settle for Netflix and another


David Attenborough’s special? Can we not

rise to the occasion, not clutch hungrily at


each other as we were wont to do years ago,

but weave about, slowly circling, bumping


belly to belly until this room disappears

into its own darkness and we become lost,


lulled in the fever, the salt and the beautiful

lie that everything goes on forever.


Alice Friman

Alice Friman’s seventh collection is Blood Weather (LSU Press). Her last two are The View from Saturn and Vinculum, for which she won the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry. A recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and included in Best American Poetry, she has been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Massachusetts Review, Gettysburg Review, Georgia Review, Plume, and many others. She lives in Milledgeville, Georgia. where she was poet-in-residence at Georgia College.