by Rebecca Bernard

You have to use two fingers when you pet a shark. You line them up side by side. Then gently place them in the tank. Let the shark come to you. It will avoid you if you reach for it. Show no desperation.

Most humans spend time growing inside the body of another. Eventually, we surface for air. It is complex and not complex at the same time. The sharks rise to the surface and feel the fingers, flat and together. Often, our mothers hold us, we the newborn.

I am thinking of a story called ‘How to be Kind.’ The plot, naturally, includes mostly unkind acts and regret. There is much sighing and quiet and longing. The characters ask to be held.

At the aquarium in Kentucky, we saw sharks. Some in tanks, some in great pools. They swam and mingled. Later, I was upset or maybe you were. The memory becomes a swarm of the feelings made at the time. They too, swim and mingle.

It is good to see faces in the mind. In that space I might make them any way I choose. We are born giving pain. We are born without memory. Our mothers hold it for us. The pain and the memory.

At the bottom of the tank there are not jewels or colored stones. It is empty. No plant life. At night, sharks sleep and drift. When the tanks are dark and the groping hands are gone, does peace exist? Nearby, the jellyfish glow.

The sensation is both smooth and violating. I find myself empathizing with the sharks. They swim past, waiting to be touched. Not a Shark