Porcupine Fish



Porcupine Fish
Racquel Chalfi

Apparently a fish like you and me.
But there is something nail-like about him.

Slowly he glides,
Examining himself in the great mirror called water
And asking why
Why these nails planted in his flesh,
Why this need for endless wariness
That sharpens him, keeps him from becoming one
With the blue enfolding softness.

And then
The waters breathe,
Something moves,
Something alien perhaps,
Certainly malign,
His spines bristle,
He turns into something else-
A swollen ball,
A small mountain of fear-
All roar if one could hear.
His mouth – small, tight, rectangular-
Distorts into a smile.
And his eyes, tiny pools in a suddenly vast forehead,
Whirl violent images into his brain.

This time, however,
It was nothing really.

And he subsides
Into the rigid destiny
Of his nail-like self.


I had to read this poem as part of my tenth grade English class.  At the time it didn't make a lot of sense to me but for some reason I knew I needed to remember it.  I copied it word for word out of the textbook onto a sheet of notebook paper and shoved it in my creative writing notebook with all of my own short stories and poems.  I still have that original sheet of paper somewhere.

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