A Long Island–shaped cloud centered the sky,
Stuck in its throat a quarter of lemon,
Which was the moon, past the broke down jaws
Of the fish, shining through cumulus scales.
I thought of an X-ray in a sitcom:
Framing the lambent ghost of a toy car
Or a wedding ring in safe deposit
In the aching stomach of a child.
The door splits wide. “Please! Help my fish!” I say.
“Fish?” says Doctor One. “Fish?” says Doctor Two.
“But this is a people hospital.” One.
“Not a fish hospital.” That’s number Two.
“He ties the aquarium together,”
I say, “Oh please help.” “Very well,” says Two.
“Let’s get him in water,” says Doctor One.
“Brilliant move, Doctor One!” is Two’s reply.
“Throw him on the slab,” Doctor One commands.
“And get the lead apron,” advises Two.
The machine hiccups. The fish somersaults.
Doctor One: “Ah, I see the problem now.”
Two, M.D.: “He’s got citrus of the throat.”
“Out damned lime,” I say, “Out!” “No good,” says Two,
“It’s terminal. Is there any family?”
“Tetras and loaches, schools of angelfish.”
“I don’t want to tell them.” Doctor One weeps.
“No, no,” I say, “This can’t be Herbert’s end.”
“One treatment,” says One, “Experimental.”
“Anything.” “Throw him in a glass,” says Two,
“Add two shots Gin. Brim with tonic. Stir well.”
“Purple parasol. We’ll drink the lime out.”
Now a blob, a vaporous amoeba
Full of drizzle and soot, meaning nothing
And never to be a lamprey again.
But the moon’s been passed; it straggles behind
Like a radioactive kidney stone.
Clouds float forever. Or they become rain.