You hand me
another white plate,
last from the rack,
and say, There. Ready
once more for our offering.
What you mean is
but what I hear is,
is an altar.
We feed it
our daily crumb
and it licks clean
our sullied relics.
What did we do
In the time before
is meant to receive—
the tremendous burden
The chore of baptism.
Our small child
hands me a cartooned
in ketchup then wails
and runs away.
What I hear is
a jewel for the goddess.
Will you place it
for me in the hollow
cathedral of her belly?
Japanese Aquarium Urges Public to Video-chat Eels Who are Forgetting Humans Exist
The aquarium has been closed since March. It’s summer
and the eels are forgetting. Used to being confronted
by infinite parades of human eyes, eels now burrow
in the sand of their imitation sea floor as their keepers,
those left, shuffle past glass. Their eyes, floating above
surgical masks or behind a shield of plastic, are not enough.
When my son is five months old, my mother buys us both
a Facebook Portal. Distance and contagion allow no other way
to honor each other’s gaze. When we speak, she refers to herself
as Grandma in the box. She has met the baby only once in person.
I think of the eels while we chat from our perspective kitchens.
Aquarists place an urgent request through the aquarium’s
Twitter: Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?
To help reconnect with humanity, five tablets are arranged
facing the tanks of over 300 eels. Virtual visitors are encouraged
to smile, wave, and converse with the fish but requested to not raise
their voices. The eels, they say, are naturally bashful.
The event is named a “face showing festival.” A hashtag is started:
#PleaseRememberHumans. My mother thinks the baby is an eel.
People tell me Well at least the baby won’t remember these times,
referring to, of course, the days turned months turned years
a virus kept us burrowing. People are obsessed
with babies remembering or not remembering. The message
I receive in my son’s first year of life is things are only worth doing
if remembered. Was it worth it, I wonder, to the eels?
Nobody holds the baby except me and his father
for an entire year. Our touch, the flickering warmth of our eyes,
is all he knows. This I will remember. When he cries,
I sometimes call Grandma in the box so she can soothe him with her voice
and make silly sounds. Often his curiosity falls elsewhere.
He does not regard the small virtual aquarium of her voice
and burrows deeper into my chest. Grandma in the box calls his name
louder, quicker. I remind her that babies, they say, are naturally bashful.