Still Eyes Sleeping by Elizabeth Kaegy

Still Eyes Sleeping


The fish lies on his side in the shallow, glass rocks
his eyes gathering the white frothy film of disuse


To this day I hate the smell of mums
they’re the scent of seasons passing
in a vibrant, blooming finale ended by wind gusts
its fingertips covered in frostbite.
They are the smell of funerals in autumn.


I reach into the water,
the other fish scatter like a whirlwind of fallen leaves
my fingers, looking faintly grey underwater,
wrap around the still swimmer
his gills are stiff but opened wide
still red and alive-looking inside.


There are mums in every shade here
some arranged as tall as I am in my fourth autumn
they smell like an aneurism,
a sudden, silent, crimson burst.
I stare down at his eyelids from Dad’s arms
and wait for them to twitch like eyes do in sleep
and I wait for his chest to rise
like chests do when someone naps
even when they’ve fallen asleep in a satin-lined box.


The fish swirls in the toilet’s flush
and for a moment he looks alive again,
swimming in tight, fast circles
but with a sudden gurgle he’s gone
and his eyes, too, are still.

Elizabeth Kaegy was raised in Illinois in an old farmhouse surrounded by open fields and filled with books, old maps, antique painted china, and her plastic watercolor sets. She graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in May of 2014 with a Graphic Design focused Bachelor of Fine Arts and minors in art history and creative writing. She is a graphic designer, watercolorist, quilter, cartographer and published poet.


"Still Eyes Sleeping" was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. In “Still Eyes Sleeping” judge Jill McDonough admired “the close attention to color, scent, and season to bring memory alive on the page.”


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