Love Poem for the Hagfish
On or near the sea floor
often enter and eviscerate the bodies of dead and
dying sea creatures much larger than you.
You are known to devour your prey from the inside,
can survive months between feedings;
when I open you up
I discover polychaetes,
shrimp, bird bones, whale flesh.
The skin is naked.
It covers the body like a loose fitting sock
and comes in a variety of colors:
pink, blue-grey, black, white.
You have one nostril,
no backbone, degenerate eyes
buried in skin.
There is no jaw or bones
but four hearts;
another for the liver,
one in the head
and a small, shrunken heart
in the tail, half-forgotten.
I know almost nothing
about the way you turn this body
into other bodies.
They call you hermaphrodite
because your one lone ovary floats half-dead
until age or desperation wakes it up.
When they find you in the mud
curled around a hatch of thirty tough, yolky eggs,
they hesitate to call you mother.
Where you live
it is always dark.
I close my eyes
and press my fingers to the lids,
trying to perceive your light.