I turn damselfish, tend an algae-garden

on the ocean floor:


glint and hue. No, I’m only knee-deep

with my eyes already stinging


and the goggles locked in the trunk

of our car. A gold ring


loose on my finger, my fiancé

already swum out so far with gray hair


bobbing like a buoy in the sharp water.

I daydream myself whale: glide and leap


through salt-air to feel breathless, falling

out of ways to say no, forgetting to water


the potted rosemary withering

on the windowsill of my kitchen-


turned-aquarium. Behind this glass

I’ll never swim deeper, never find


a place to hide, even with curtains drawn

or the beta shining in his tank, a sinking


tail’s flick. I’ll turn bride

at the edge of Pacific


where tides suck my ankle bones.

I’ll learn to gulp breaths, clutching


a damp pillowcase against the pearl-slick

of our sheets, that almost-softness


of a dull morning torn apart without compass

or tank of air or lessons on how to swim.

Stacey Balkun is the author of two chapbooks, Jackalope-Girl Learns to Speak (dancing girl 2016) & Lost City Museum (ELJ Publications 2016). She received her MFA from Fresno State and her work has appeared or will appear in Gargoyle, Muzzle, THRUSH, Bodega, and others. A 2015 Hambidge Fellow, Stacey served as Artist-in-Residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013. She teaches poetry workshops online at The Poetry Barn.