The Fish That Are the Whale

In the depression between two hills,
We rode at a walk. Gentlemen,
As you were, don’t you see
Your fear came true? Life is not as cruel as you
And the crueler you consider life, the crueler you’ll be.

We agree. I understand you completely
But I don’t understand the way you treat me.
The people I’ve treated this way
I haven’t loved. I don’t understand
How you can love me the way you treat me.

In the patch of grass behind your house,
A neighbor crouched and waited.
We rode from the North and I said hi.
I had nothing to hide, though like a new bride
Or a cold one, I had covered myself with a sheet.

Where we rode, truth tellers hadn’t heard of a lie.
They believed instead in delayed rhymes:
I can see your lips and eyes moving, but no words
Exit your mouth. Finally you tell me your thought.
By that time, it no longer rhymes.

We rode up and down and life kept pace,
Everyone me or a postcard
From a faraway place. Croatians
Called me “America the Beautiful”
But I prefer gorgeous.

In the Depression between Two Hills

Replacing myself into the calm
Seated body patiently awaiting
My replacement, I had recurring
Dreams that ended with me
Sitting up suddenly

In my bed, still in the dream,
From which I woke
Suddenly and sat up frightened
Of the repetition, as if of a glitch
Or a stutter.

It’s like a stutter, my awareness,
Two sounds where
There should be one,
But two sounds
In awareness of their oneness.

In awareness of their oneness,
We rode at a walk. Gentlemen,
You talk too slow. You have
No sleeve to wipe your nose
And when the dawn breaks

Its colors upon you,
Which shall you absorb?
For men are pregnant all the time
With information.
Some with wisdom.

*    *    *

Jessica Laser is the author of two chapbooks: He That Feareth Every Grass Must Not Piss in a Meadow (paradigm press, 2016) and Assumed Knowledge and the Knowledge Assumed from Experience (Catenary Press, 2015). Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, The Iowa Review, Lana Turner, jubilat, Prelude and elsewhere. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she teaches writing at Parsons School of Design.

Readers are encouraged to submit 3–5 poems as a PDF to Wendy Xu for consideration at

Wendy Xu is the author of the poetry collections Phrasis (Fence, 2017), winner of the 2016 Ottoline Prize, and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient...