The Pipefish

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.