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Self-Portrait as the Clown Fish

I am two, just learning

How to sneak out of your arms;

How to step quietly away, on shaky tiptoe–

Hands folded, eyes slammed shut,

Mumbling mirthlessly to the ash-gray sky–

And in those few, frightening, seconds

I am the clownfish,

(Bright fins flapping furiously, and

Frail orange and white body bending,

Bursting, with unease)

Flying away away away

From the anemone,


There is no escape from those

Carnivorous tentacles

That shock and sting–

Stretching and curling,

Capturing any prey that strays

In its path–

Wrapping and squeezing around my frail body

Harder and harder

Until orange and black fade into

Purple and blue and-

Now I am staring at your face;

Your mouth is downturned

And your eyes burn fiery blue

As my frail body, narrow as a willow,

bone practically protruding

Out of paper-thin skin,

Shakes, like a leaf in strong blustery winds and-

Now I am nineteen and

Finally gone from your grasp

Brown eyes ablaze,

With a strong steady gait,

Yet every few steps I falter and suddenly

I am the clownfish again,

Bright orange fading into purple and blue but,

The anemone no longer traps me

And no I am not free, but

I have learned the art of symbiosis–

The art of give and take,

Of learning to live with the anemone–

Convincing and coaxing the tentacles,

Training them to protect and defend

My still frail body

While blue water twirls and twines

Around me

And large clear bubbles

Dance and dance

Up and up and up

Away away away

Toward the distorted light

Of the yellow sun

Now a bright baby blue

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