Outside the grey church in Galway

congregants, released by the bells, cross the bridge

without a glance down to the water

or the swans. But the fishermen,


waist-deep in the slate and sudden water,

genuflect toward the river in hope of fish.

I stop to watch their lines

carve quarter moons out of the sky


pulled down to meet the wave-tips

and tossed high again—a night passing

with each motion. The fuchsia flirts gaudy

skirts and purple petticoats over every wall.


What color was the river on the day

my great-great-great-grandmother fled Ireland,

a child on the coffin ships? Here I am,

a stranger to my mother’s womb.


A knife-gash of oxygen in the gills

lodges in my throat. Caught,

a fish rises into a world

that cannot sustain its body.