In The Shark World

In the shark world,

even, there are rules, laws
about sleepswimming and razor
teeth and what the sharkbelly
wants. Like my father and his own rules,
laws for his kingdom, our tiny
apartment with the neighbors’ footsteps
pattering above, a layer of interruption
between my father and God.
I remember my father shaking
his fist at the ceiling. Aren’t you
listening? he would say, his fish mouth
opening and closing with tired, unheard
words. You just gotta stop.
I was never sure who he was yelling at,
the neighbors with their muffled shuffling,
or the God who my father swore was always
testing him. Either way, I wanted him to let go,
let the ocean glide him forward, be like
those sharks who keep moving
even with speargashes in their skin.
Forget about the neighbors, forget
about God. Remember only survival
and keeping your eyes fixed on the food fish
up ahead of you, rather than the harpoon
boats hovering above that are more likely
to get you once you are standing still.

–Francine Witte