The aquarium’s a bit emptier each day.
Along the glass, a crust grows cloudier
Toward the always-nearing bottom.
Plastic Transylvanian towers and archway
Rise like volcanic islands above murkier
Depths, where a cochlear snail nestles in scum.
A Golden Comet and Fantail, two
Small fish, swim in ever-lessening space.
Memoryless, they move without history,
Gulp at floating feces, wriggle through
Ribs of a sunken galleon, poke at bloated shapes
Of ones that float, half breathing, or already
Dead. They think it’s always been this way,
Crammed in their foggy phlegm. The tank’s
Floor is packed with pebbles, rainbow-stained
Like puffs of cereal, snowed over by decay,
Sloughed scales, lost fins. The golden flanks
Of those alive still glint in the nearly drained
Tank. They thrash each other for space. Today,
Water’s lower. It’s always been this way.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 36 Number 9, on page 26
Copyright © 2017 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com
staging.newcriterion.com/issues/2018/5/air-water-9763