Jaimie Gusman



out of water, not a fish but

some animals are strangely finned. as in, close to extinct
but their bodies do not know this

as they cut through
the natural world.

to be finned means to have a winglike appendage.


spirits are gossiping: extinction is a terrifying word, don't you think?


when I tell the story, I let my audience look at the eye,
look deep down into the tunnel of my carved-out hole
and ask, can you see my soul yet? and then I move closer,
how about now?


what do you believe, if you do not believe in sacrifice?
for example,

from the delivery bed, a friend says
the contractions feel like sharks eating at her stomach.

at some point, we all pluck an eye.


in order to swim, you must

it might be this simple, but

to float, you must concentrate
on every part alive in the world.

pay attention
the story will only lose you
if you forget to breathe
if you forget why you must


my spirit-animal lays eggs.

it has taken my spirit-animal
3500 years to build her nest

because her imagination
runs wild, gets in the way

of settling down,
of having babies,

but after many years
of tearing down the nest and

reconstructing it, the eggs
appear, in the bright-white morning.


I'm afraid I'm no one
especially in the sea.


I wanted wings
to swim out of rage.

it is so easy to hate
the things a hand makes.







In the Kabbalah, the figure of the Shekinah (שכינה), represents the female divine presence of God. She is the feeling of God upon Earth (the soul). This poem is part of a series of long poems that investigate the mythology of the Shekinah, her imagined birth story and exile from God. Feminist Midrash inspiration: Alicia Ostriker's Nakedness of the Fathers.