What the Fish Know

Lake Michigan, just north of Onekama, Michigan

Ann DeVilbiss wrote this poem while spending time on the beaches of Lake Michigan, just north of Onekama, Michigan.

What the Fish Know


The morning lake

is a calm blue nothing,

soft horizon, reaching,

early light cutting

through small waves like

a net scrimmed over

the shallow places.


Our feet move,

pale clumsy giants, and

even the hungriest fish

skirt away, shy back

to the murky gloam

among the green reeds,

wait for

better quarry,


as if they remember

how we take them

inside our cheeks like

sins or secrets,


as if they remember

how fish drown in air:


first blood beads up

along the edges of the gills,

the neck flecked pink

with blood’s reaching,

then white with the foam

that gathers along

the heaving sides.


Their scales are

sharp as teeth when

we weigh them

in our hands.

Ann V. DeVilbiss

Ann V. DeVilbiss has a BA in English from Indiana University. Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Day One, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Pangyrus and TAB. She is the recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, which is supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Louisville, KY. Visit her website, www.anndevilbiss.com.

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