by Erin McManness; for more information, visit

by Erin McManness; for more information, visit

Deep Inside the Fish

by Robert Vivian

Deep inside the fish is a hidden temple where a sacred word is spoken by water and the water rushes over it again and again so the word stays clean and shining in the belly of the fish that is an altar made of swim bladder and intestines and alluvial runoff of cold, clear rain and deep inside the fish I love my home made of pine in a forest without trails and wind in the trees where I wander alone like a thread of smoke with visions of paradise which are right here and now and weightlessness such as I have never known except as a bird once in sleep who taught me about wings and singing and also feathers filled with sunlight rife as any glowing and deep inside the fish where I have never been there must be star charts and abacus, a divine accounting reckoning the days that ring up zeroes of praise and moons waxing and waning as they change into shadows to fit their own fullness in barren pregnancies giving birth to bold-faced stone and deep inside the fish is another fish and another fish I have never seen or held, dream fish of a numinous and mystical essence whose scales hum in the deep silence of water that is always moving and dream fish Precambrian and electrical and wave-most of all wanderers, dream fish craggy beasts of ultimate wonder stripped to naked hindmost and steeped in ever plunging layers in a river that holds dear life in movement and the water that gives eggs their roundness and the breaking out of shells by life that wants to swim before it sings and deep inside the fish I read a holy book and I become a holy book whose letters are written in blood and the agony I am heir to, throne also to crown by in a gasping and a grasping and the desire to become water again after I am burned and deep inside the fish my wife is waiting for me with her legs open and a look on her face that says Come inside and I will and I will for as long as we both shall live and deep inside the fish the mystery keeps unfolding, unwinding and spiraling out in dervish delight as I watch it and become a part of it in the great astonishment that does not end and deep inside the fish my grandfather is waiting for me to pick up a sacred tool and I don’t know what the tool is only that it is there deep inside the fish and I must find it, the fish whose shimmer and whose trembling beads the surface of the water and I look into it not to know but to wonder and deep inside the fish my death is waiting for me in the shadows and the small hat of fire that whispers my name and deep inside the fish God says Always and I repeat Always and so confirm my place among the ten thousand things though I am broken and small and God sees this as manifest and proper and the only possible divining, destiny’s true beacon and deep inside the fish the sun rises once more over a valley full of wheat and grass and wild flowers that graze their nuptials in delirious abandon before the rain begins and deep inside the fish the sighs of lovers find their way back to mouths to sucking and release and the pent-up bursting of stars and inner whirl of the perianth, which are cosmos and light, laughter and rainbow and the garden that grows fruit and flower and buds close to bursting in a ripeness that fills the earth and bows under the sky, fragrance and lavender and celebration of brightness that does not go inside the fish that bolts for cover under a sunken log, waiting for the current to bring it nymph or caddis, or the limp body of a fly washed a hundred times so it is made clean again over and over, ready for the sacrament to be consumed deep inside the fish so reach out and eat it.


About Robert Vivian

Robert Vivian is the author of The Tall Grass Trilogy, Water And Abandon, and two books of meditative essays, Cold Snap As Yearning and The Least Cricket Of Evening. He’s currently at work on a collection of dervish essays.

One Response to “Essay”

  1. Brenda Beardsley

    I loved this!!!! I loved how image flowed from one thing to the next, how I wanted to dwell on that first phrase – go back to it, again, again, how I will return to these images, the rest of the day. Well done.


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