The Fish That Fell in Love With a Wave – by MICHAEL O’SHAUGHNESSY



your skin

keeps yr

ocean in


yr oceans didn’t enter you

you didn’t swallow yr oceans

or fall asleep in the rain


no one added water to create the broth

you serve anyone with a thin hunger


the salt you taste is your salt


and they’re not going to leave you


you can hear yr ocean

we can hear it

but only you can feel it


the waves of them

their depths

those fathoms may seem phantom

they must be phantoms



No. Full oceans. No facsimile.

No simile.


I paused.





Michael O’Shaughnessy co-edited a literary zine in the ’90s called Report to Hell. From 2007-2010, he and his wife wrote a gonzo cooking column called “In the Sellwood Kitchen” for a neighborhood newspaper in Portland, Oregon. He runs a semi-fictional net label called Sleeping Brothers Records, releasing lo- to mid-fi albums recorded over the last 30 years by a small circle of friends. He lives with his wife in Southern California. You can find him on Twitter at @mroshaugh.



8 Comments Add yours

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  2. I like that interpretation. I do most often write in the abstract, with a penchant for the surreal. (I write a poem as if it’s the painting I don’t have the skill to complete.) So the full depth of this “ocean” (to prolong the metaphor), whether it be depression or some great inspiration, can only be fully understood by each of us individually. What comes out of that is art (if only the art of living). In my wildest dream, it’s an attempt to mimic Lawrence Durrell’s “At the Long Bar” (The sickness of the oyster is the pearl.”)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Martin Shone says:

    Hello there, I have to say I am utterly confused by this poem. I’ve read it over and over and it has baffled me. Any chance of a hint? 🙂


    1. sicklitmag says:

      It’s abstract; when I read it, I liked the way he was describing someone who seemed to be possibly dealing with depression,something that only they could feel but that everyone else saw. It’s not her fault that she’s depressed (she didn’t swallow the oceans or fall asleep in the rain). But it’s overwhelming. She hides it well. But it’s still there, under her skin.


      1. Martin Shone says:

        Thank you but I can’t say I see that. I find it extremely difficult to read ambiguous poetry but this one just seems like jigsaw pieces from different puzzles jumbled together in the same box and I can’t fit it together. 😦


        1. sicklitmag says:

          One of my favorite poets is Pablo Neruda. What I liked about his style was that instead of being overt, it made the reader think. One of my favorite lines from his poetry is,
          “Conspirators in pajamas
          who exchange deep
          kisses for passwords.”
          I don’t feel that Mike’s poem is different puzzles jumbled together. I feel that it, like Neruda before him, is written without ambiguity, and has meaning. It’s finding what it means to you that it makes it interesting. The beauty of poetry is that it doesn’t have to fit a particular format, style or follow the rules of prose to mean something.

          What I feel is that the poem is about someone falling in love with a troubled or sick person. He’s the fish; she’s the wave.


        2. Martin Shone says:

          Oh yes I understand about the beauty of poetry and the freedom of it but this one I have to chalk up as one I failed with.


      2. I like that interpretation. I do most often write in the abstract, with a penchant for the surreal. (I write a poem as if it’s the painting I don’t have the skill to complete.) I honestly am not certain what I meant. Reading your description, I see it in a different way. Which is exciting and gives promise to the idea that poetry is a living thing.


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