Cathexis Northwest Press
If a Fish
If a fish were to wiggle up out of the sea, walk to my door, stand on its hind fins, ring the bell, walk right on in, drip sea water and drop shimmering fish scales onto my carpet, then
tell me, in my mother tongue, what it had practiced for years in the sea's cold, deep heart to say,
I would listen to its every word, but
if that fish came all this way and only gaped, wordless, on my living room rug the way fish gape when they’re fishes out of water,
I might be tempted to hit it on the head with a hammer, or call the newspaper, or return him quickly to the sea.
And if that fish still has some message amid the coral and scattered bones at the bottom of the sea and cannot imagine how, but still wiggles and shimmers and flits, not this place, not this place,
then it is like a man wanting his first wife to hear something: that he was a good father, that he tried, that he would like her respect, if not her love,
and his whole life is like that— never at the when and where he's supposed to be at, wiggling and twisting some message.
A fish, no tongue, no feet, no air, only some stammering across the table
at the bottom of the sea.
George Burns was the owner of a small company in the semiconductor industry until he retired in 2008. He has been writing short stories and poetry for more than forty years.
His short stories and poems have appeared many literary magazines, including Alaska Quarterly Review, The Comstock Review, The DMQ Review and The Massachusetts Review.
In 2004, his poem, "Partly Heliotropic", was the winner of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Poetry Contest.