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"last year's winterkill" by Jona L. Pedersen

I am the rough fish

that escaped the winterkill.

somewhere, at the bottom of the lake

the light reached me, trickling

through a hole in the ice.

my lateral line tells me

to go higher, and

I go higher.

I am the rough fish;

the dandelion of ichthyology.

I’ve swum so far now,

they find me

all of me

scattered in devil’s lake.

reel me in, all my parts,

and put me in a creel.

I am the winterkill.

I am the sun turned white. I am

the bloated body of a bowfin,

my ribs exposed through my

skin. I am the deathless cold

haunting this body, this lake

since the pleistocene, splitting—

like rivers through teeth.

and I am the rough fish,

my otoliths sensing

the breathing darkness around

me. I am the rough fish

always swimming;

the annuli of my scales

running out of space

to count my winterkills.

I am the rough

fin, rough water,

rough winter:

I am the kill,

I am the fish.

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