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The other morning I noticed a fish in my garden.
I thought, what was a 3-foot-long dead fish doing among the bushes and trees?
But he wasn’t dead.
He was looking around.

I am sure gills work only in water, but somehow he breathed.
His silvery scales shone bluish and pinkish in the sun.
He was fat, though I suppose normal for his species.
He looked as if he were settling in.

I am from the sea, he said. Our plants look different from these.
I told him not to eat the olives when they fall.
I showed him the lemons, how yellow they get and how we like them sour.
He didn’t know what ‘sour’ meant.

What’s that? he said.
It was the sky. How do you explain the sky to someone from deep ocean?
It is December and the air is clear this time of year. I was glad for that.
How did you get here? I asked.

I had to come. You never pay attention.
For a hundred years the bees have been talking to you. And the ants, too.
Didn’t you notice them in your houses these last few months?
They explain things very carefully, but you are deaf. You are all deaf.
And the flocks of robins – they paint things clearly,
But you are blind. You are all blind.
So, we have come to show you how to live.

I squatted down next to the Manzanita bush.
And then quietly, quietly, he gave his instruction.
When he finished, my heart had opened three yellow flowers.
My arms were flowing with sap and nectar.
Hummingbirds were landing on them.
I laughed and looked into their eyes.
There I saw how the Earth rotates and wobbles, how it flings itself around the sun.
The California towhees pecked for edibles at my feet.
Of course, I have always watched them carefully before,
But now I could see ancient dinosaurs and tree shrews,
And how the whole pattern emerged.
I think I understand, I said.

And I started to walk.
Everywhere I saw the fish.
Some were larger, some smaller,
All of them were talking to people sitting on the ground next to them.
Everywhere it was quiet.

I think I understand. It’s easy.
My ears grew lush green vines.
I heard the flow of ocean currents across the Pacific.

It’s easy. To live on this planet is easy.
We needn’t be afraid.

‘Fish’ is the companion poem to Nancy’s ‘Global Warming’, which we published on the blog earlier in November 2021. After she wrote ‘Global Warming’, a quietly insistent voice kept telling her that the fish needed his own poem…

Nancy’s hometown is New York City, although she grew up on four and a half acres of wooded land in Connecticut. She has also lived in Hawaii and inland Southern California. She has had two careers, teaching Asian studies in the New York School system, and as producer/announcer for radio and TV in news, public affairs, and also classical music. Until the pandemic, Nancy was teaching hula and flamenco, and over the years she has done a wide variety of volunteer work.


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