Everyone goes to the koi pond to smoke cigarettes
like it’s 1943 and they need something to take the edge off.
Because what makes nations fight and why
do we have to die for being born
one place or another, we ask at the koi pond.
We’re sprawled out on the wooden memorial bench—
the one inscribed with a dead woman’s name.
I didn’t know her, but I do know
she didn’t die to become a bench.
You’d think she’d rather have died
to become one of the koi
and float like a submarine
through the dip-me-in water of late afternoon,
sizzling off the day’s heat with the others.
What if the world is just as bad underwater
and the fish hate each other like people do,
asks Henry. What if they’re here because they’re stuck,
bound by gills and frantic eyes
either side of their heads to this dinky puddle?
Piss off, Henry.
Could be, is all.
It’s too hot and too early to talk about death.
Everyone knows you can only talk about dying at night.
Just smoke your cig and be quiet—I’m listening
to the smooth ripple of the fountain at the far end
of the pond. Sounds like when you were a kid
and running a bath, waiting for the right time
to put in the bubbles.
I wonder if the koi fish ever look out
at the blue hydrangeas and fanned leaves,
the ends of our cigarettes glowing like fireflies
as the sun throws in the towel,
and shimmy to the top
thinking maybe this time is it—
they’ll pull themselves
over the pond’s lip and onto the grass,
waving hello to the bench, flopping
through dandelions to brush their tail fins
in the reflection pool on the other side of the path.
Henry doesn’t think they know to look.
He flicks the crumbling end
of his cigarette into the pond. It dims
and a thin stream of smoke sighs
like a woman’s breath towards the sky.
He calls the pond a puddle.
He doesn’t know
By Becca Fallon
Becca Fallon has been published on poets.org as a 2018 winner of the Academy of American Poets Student/University prize, as well as in Sanctuary print journal and the winnow. She wears ugly sweaters from the 90s for fashion.