by Joan A. Monheit
In a jar, corner window
of a Chinatown herb shop—dried sea horses.
Hippocampus: Greek for horse-caterpillar—
horse head and long body, used for healing.
My fingers graze over their armor,
I choose the best for you: perfect
form, head and body, smooth brown ridges.
The curl of its tail a question.
I see you dressing to meet your friends
at The Pit in Harvard Square:
pulling on cut-offs, your long legs
freshly scarred from shaving,
thick golden hair glistening with henna
tied back from your face,
bangs uneven on your forehead.
You are a young woman,
have grown a hard, prickly outer skin,
sharp rings of bone for protection.
You, too, change colors to blend,
in order to belong. We're a family of misfits,
you say of you and your friends. Spend
a Saturday night doing crystal meth, then,
alone, draw a razor blade across your skin
to remember who you are.
Sasha, I think of the sea horse—
harsh wind and waves, the indifferent rocks—
how in spite of its armor,
it often gets eaten by the bigger fish.
Previously published in Santa Clara Review, vol 88, number 2, spring/summer 2001.
Reproduced by mamazine.com with permission of the author.
Joan A. Monheit is a psychotherapist in Berkeley, CA, where she facilitates
Writing Through Grief and Healing Through Writing groups and workshops.
Her poems have appeared in publications including ZYZZYVA, Calyx, and Santa Clara Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.