Ysabel Y. Gonzalez


My husband shares with me
that moment he awoke
from having his wisdom teeth removed and
couldn’t pull his eyes away from the scene—bloody enamel
lined up, one by one by one, an altar of bone and jaw.
He refused to believe that all these teeth were
wedged in his mouth for all this time.

Honey, you’re a shark. Didn’t you know?
For a very long time you were the angry kind,
mammal full of rows of teeth that chomped down
on any living creature before him, circling a meal,
devouring a small frightful snack.
Because that’s what it meant to be shark—
correcting the wrong, swallowing bullies one mouthful at a time
until you are the lurking, stalking thing that threatens.
But I’m your wife and don’t succumb to your sharp—I lurch,
play with your massive snout, twitch my tiny fin tail
toward stalks of green rising from the bottom of oceans.
Our blues match each other, bantering through water,
weaving around each other,
creating currents that other fish swim through.
We both know you cannot help being born a shark,
row after row of piercing things pulling you
like magnets
across water toward blood.
But there is something you can do now—
chase delight, muscles untethering joy while
swimming round and round, playful strokes.

You and I are both unlearning teeth’s potential,
delicate way they pose a threat,
bludgeoning beasts turning over in waters to
reveal a soft majestic belly,
smiling full and fast,
awkward wide grin full of dozens of teeth
beaming at salty horsefish
who beckon God’s good race—
proof that to be a man does not equate
sharp-tooth, unhinged jaw, torpedo-body
pulling down its prey.
Sweetheart, every fish you choose not to chew gives
more grace to this world and gives
us a fighting chance to teach ourselves
how to forgive.

Newark, New Jersey native Ysabel Y. Gonzalez,  received her BA from Rutgers University, an MFA in Poetry from Drew University and works as the Assistant Director for the Poetry Program at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Ysabel has received invitations to attend VONA, Tin House, Ashbery Home School and BOAAT Press workshops. She’s a CantoMundo Fellow and has been published in Tinderbox Journal, Anomaly, Vinyl, Waxwing Literary Journal, and others.  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of Wild Invocations (Get Fresh Book, 2019). You can read more at ysabelgonzalez.com

Next poem

Previous poem

Spring 2021