My father is at the bottom of a pond
perfecting the art of the circle.
He is guiding the mottled zeppelin
of his body in a single unceasing turn
like a monorail running on greased steel,
like an ice skater swerving on a blade.
His scales are lava and ember dappled with carbon.
His tail, a luxurious Japanese fan.
He is so far beneath the green skin of duckweed
he cannot make me out, or I him.
What he knows is shrinking into round facts:
days like mossed stones, each the same weight,
spears of water hyacinth rising
around him like jail bars, reek of peat.
He has been down there for years—
ancient god of the dark, keeper of the single
koan, moving in currents only he can sense,
fluent as a windsock. He surfaces
three times a day when the nurse brings
a tray—cold blanched carrot and beef,
whitesauce fillet of whiting, pound cake.
He cannot trust the scratched headlamps
of his eyes so he navigates by feel,
angling his huge whiskered head
mouth-first towards the fork, weaving
like an adder charmed by smoke,
then he bites down to find the world
suddenly there again, solid as metal and bait.
Copyright ©2022 by Sarah Holland-Batt, The Leopard, University of Queensland Press