Baleen

The women in the village fish from the stream

with water running through their teeth like whales.

When they catch one, they toss it to shore.

The more they bend to drink, the thicker

their foreheads become. The smaller and redder

their eyes grow. 

The mothers come, bringing their sons who shout

with joy and collect the fish from the soft banks.

They will eat them later 

with glasses full of cold milk 

for their growing bones. 

The women keep drinking and tossing

the fish they will not eat. Their teeth become longer

and thinner. Their arms grow shorter and thicker.

The mothers smile and thank them but do not meet

their now tiny eyes or peer to see into the water 

flowing through them. 

They take the small sticky hands of their children, 

and the silver scaled twitching fish,

and they walk back to the village, 

maybe telling a story

or singing a song.

The women still drink. At least the water

is cold and clean, and the mothers’ singing

sometimes floats on the breeze

back for them to hear. Sometimes it stays in the air

for hours.

Caitlin Jackson is a graduate of Oberlin College, where she received a BA in Creative Writing and German Studies. She also completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Central Florida. She has had poems published in 2river View, Natural Bridge, The Jabberwock Review, OVS, Grey Sparrow Journal and Scissors and Spackle. Her short story, “Swell”, was published in Painted Bride Quarterly. Her first full length poetry collection, Myths for Small Matters, was published in December 2016 by Main Street Rag Publishing.

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