For months, we’ve planned to visit
the New England Aquarium,
where a new shark exhibit has opened.
An open tank allows me to stick my hand
in cold water and let it float,
waiting for sharks the length of thigh bone
to emerge from faux coral and swim.
You watch me as a thin body crowds my palms
like I have something to offer this world.
Her skin brushes my fingertips, cool and wet,
a gentle kind of sandpaper one uses to scrape perfect shapes,
a slow and beautiful torture.
A plaque nearby reads Dermal Denticles,
thousands of miniature razor blades the shape of teeth
coating skin in a cobblestone path.
Every day I am finding new reasons to crawl across it
on my hands and knees. Lucky for me, all sharks know
is forgiveness, needing it so often themselves.
You watch me touch this shark, and suddenly
this is no longer about hunting, about predator vs. prey –
it’s about you kissing the insides of my wrists
where veins meet like coiled seaweed.
It’s about your eyes growing soft
when I look through a hole in the wall
where an egg case glows orange beneath a lightbulb,
a small, baby shark heart beating,
the shadow of its body pulsing and ready for birth.
Alix Wood was raised by two mothers on Anna Maria Island, Florida. At the University of Vermont, she was the editor-in-chief of The Gist, the school’s literary and art magazine. Her work has been published by SWWIM, Poached Hare, and Impossible Archetype and will be published by Bear Review, Screen Door Review, and Sundog Lit. Alix’s poetry frequently centers around the body, bisexuality, trauma, family relationships, mental illness, and the natural world. She is currently an MFA student in poetry at North Carolina State University.