Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language. 

Self Portrait as a Body, a Sea

by Donika Kelly

I am a body schooling,
a ball of fish, flashing
and many, in these early days
of feeling, of love.

When I learned,
hours ago, of fish songs
that swell like birdsong
in the morning,

how they foghorn or buzz
for food, or mates
or space, I thought,
now aren’t I a humming thing?

Yes, you say,
a body of oceans
and marvelous.

And the sea anemone in me,
……….growing on the wreckage
of an old ship—

can they grow that way,
I wonder, on an ending—

Still this bright and tentacled

anthozoan polyp,

which reaches and filters

whatever it needs

from this strong current,

.
and the current too that carries

the sea cucumbers,

the rough mammals,

the life, both vertebrate

and invertebrate,

.
even the batfish,

the black jewfish,

and the terapontid,

.
it all swells and breaks in me

like a chorus at dusk.

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. This poem was originally published in the Sewanee Review, 2017. 

Donika Kelly is the author of The Renunciations (Graywolf), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf book award in poetry, and Bestiary (Graywolf), the winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Kelly’s poetry has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Publishing Triangle Awards, the Lambda Literary Awards, and longlisted for the National Book Award. A Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World, she has also received a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a summer workshop fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Donika lives in Iowa City with her wife, the nonfiction writer Melissa Febos, and is an assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing.

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and teacher Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this second year of our series is the first movement, Schéhérazade, from Masques, Op. 34, by Karol Szymanowski, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission