Poetry: Hydrophobia—Zachary Bos


come swim you say// oh no thank you i say// you ask if i have always been chary at the lido// and i say simply put i prefer not to since i was not allowed to take up advantageous pursuits as a boy and never did sport// you smile at my joke of pretension and know i am just scared// it just is not my thing my bag you know i would get tired// the risk of cramp is real// and red tide and rip tide// the place to be is up here on shore// with you// above the tide line// here on the dry loose sand where i can draw temporary promises and wipe them away// while you flash youthful in the surf// glittering with eel-bodies// they are primitive and therefore jealous// yes i’ll be fine// no i am not coming in// the risk of cramp// coral rash// something not to sneeze at// just let me watch you from here// you gambol in the breakers and drown and return sedate and hydrophilic// salt-crusted// let me watch you call them to you// they come every time you do// you tease them and you let them pass through you// you shake off their swollen height// as i try earnestly to stay here content at the edge of the world// my hand gripping the hemline of the beach like the edge of a skirt my mother might wear// while i dig my toes into their sand scabbards// while i gaze on all that trembling nature// the variegated bits of dental glass rusted wrapped in weed mesh rough with sea damage// i touch with my foot a cluster of oysters wrenched off their anchor// i worry about encephalitis// being caught in a cloister smoking sepia tobacco in a nunnery// being sent to bed scared and unfed// having to run down a stone corridor and pitch myself through a window to fall into the ocean below all rough salt beard and wrack and wet root// aphrodisiac mineral spectra secreted by a foot by a tongue a rasping organ lapping spilled nude oil// the lunar egg and the light run together in the dim miraculous nacre interior// fear her fear boneless insects crawling kiss to kiss with loose mouth agape// lolling open to the sand the pulverized mountain ranges nesting on the sea floor pressed back into sheaves of chalk not for you but rather because of you suffering compression because of you the blue light siren fish dangle their erotic bells off poles bolted to their headbones// light lures borne above their brittle faces// mates bolted jaw to hip calling their fragrant love across the beaches// of all the winsome partners i might imagine why do i dream of one who will hurt me// oh come be cold with me you say// let me pierce you with my spine-filled mouth


Zachary Bos studied poetry in the graduate creative writing program at Boston University. He edits The New England Review of Books and is Publisher at Pen & Anvil Press.. His work has appeared in venues including Fallujah, Bombus, Berfrois Public Pool, Bellevue Literary Review, Found Poetry Review (RIP), and The Christian Science Monitor. Most recently, he was named to the longlist for the 2017 Disquiet Poetry Prize.


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