day 3: love poem for the hagfish


Love Poem for the Hagfish


On or near the sea floor

you feed


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;


one vertebrate,

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.

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