Water Cycle

by Kristin Chemis

“You do net good for life,” Kai tries to reassure me. “The plants and the boys and this one, here.” His hand gestures to the small curve of my belly.

This morning I carefully plunged a brand-new net into the emergent water of our fish tank to retrieve the little one who’d gasped on the rocky floor until his tiny body finally gave in.

It’s against both of our philosophies to take animals out of the wild, placing them in the hold of human fools who don’t understand the perfect balance they need. And yet, that spot in our living room was empty, and the boys wanted a pet. What is childhood without a pet?

So many years ago, a child myself, I strode outside with my shaggy little puppy and marveled at his energy and spirit. But I slowed down when we walked past the quiet house around the corner—the one where my mom and I had left a fruit basket, that unsatisfying way of saying we were sorry about the boy who caught a virus and didn’t make it through. He was eleven years old, in my elementary school class. His spot at the desk next to mine was empty afer that.

Now, the blue-lit waters dancing in front of us, Kai says, “Maybe, if it’s too upsetting, it’s better not to have the fish.”

In one way or another, everything upsets. Our best efforts wither, we swallow our sobs, and the sweetest fruit is still not enough. But what is the swell of life without its clenching squeeze?

I close my eyes and feel the fluttering inside me, like the quickened movements of those in the water who still remain.

A safe, empty basin couldn’t kill any life—but it couldn’t house any, either.

Kristin Chemis lives in San Diego with her partner, twin boys, and baby girl. Her poetry was recently published in Press 53, and she published the children’s book The Parrots Next Door under the pen name K.K. Tucker.

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