-Excerpt II: Sea Peach cd/book (2002)

  1. Sea Peach Cat Kidd

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Love breathes underwater like sea creatures
slow in how it teaches, gliding grazing like a graceful ray
an opening anemone, raising tendrils in time to the pulse of the sea
and drawing them in again. It’s only enemy that toothy little fish anxiety
for years it followed me, nipping my Achilles from behind
to remind me of times I was blind to love that never left
when buried, bereft my heart burrowed low
so no one else could bruise it, didn’t know
that hiding was the only way to lose it.

Since the Ice Age she’d been down
in the basement digging through boxes
trying to find something she thought she’d lost.
The original skin of shape-shifting foxes
She’d come to believe she was not a real person
maybe a creature someone put a curse on, assuming
human form to learn a lesson while she’s here.
A shape-shifter, a drifter, more at home roaming
open fields alone, than tethered to another
and living under cover in a room no matter how warm.
She’d come to miss the furred perk of her alert ears,
the magic broomstick of her tail, her padded paws
turning circles thrice before she sleeps.
But whatever original skin she was born with is hidden away somewhere in a box
so no human lover would ever discover she’s not actually a girl, but a fox.
One who walks and talks like a regular girl, but if she falls in love
its the end of the world, for her, the permanent transfer from one life
form to another. If love ever uncovered her original skin,
she might never fit back into it again, slip into it and slink out the door.
She might never be the same as she was before. 

Then she met you and she wasn’t afraid, though you didn’t feel like a choice
she had made at first. More like a kind of emulsion or
expulsion from the secret garden of her discontent,
you must have been heaven sent. She’d prayed for answers from the sky
but looked to earth for her reply,
the nodding god of Yes who was so welcome in your eye.
Your heart beat a happy tattoo so she opened the door and
yes it was true, nothing was the same as it had been before
you. Like shiny scales of goldfish you opened
eyes on her skin, and they wept out oceans lying within
but old loves flood away to make room for a new one 
didn’t think she had it left in her to even pursue one
then recent questions as to whether she was even human.
And letters that she didn’t send, loves she swore would never end,
apology calls she didn’t make, loves lost or tossed by blind mistake,
and all the roads she didn’t take.
Love’s the one who’s hard to find
love’s the one who knows your mind,
love’s the one who feeds your soul
love’s the one to have and hold…
But hold a minute, hold how?
There’s a hundred hungry ways to hold her up or hold her down
will she still be able to get around? will she be able to hold her ground?
So she digs down deep to the bottom of the box
to find the original hide of the fox, 
and it’s there all right, despite
paranoia some lover would thieve it
slip it on and slink away.
The choice was always hers to retrieve it
but who wears furs these days?
perhaps her fears had fallen out of fashion
perhaps there were more human ways of nourishing a passion.

But look, there beneath the fox at the bottom of the box,
a book about biology. And being a student of life she took hold
of it in her own hands, she let it unfold
in hopes it would offer that lesson to teach.
It fell open to the name Halocynthia auranthium
or in more common terms, the Sea Peach.
The sea peach is a creature who looks like a heart
living at the bottom of the ocean
rooted in place by a sucker on its underpart
grounded, holding steady as devotion, its evolution
has chosen this sort of lifestyle.
Halocynthia auranthium
in luminous hues of a peach chrysanthemum
by sublime chance, or divine artistry
with two branching siphons raised overhead
like the aorta and the pulmonary artery.
One to take things in, one to give things out  
the sea peach teaches what the heart is about.
Through its two siphons the sea peach feeds,
breeds, and breathes, taking in food and oxygen,
inspiration, exhaling tiny tadpoles to the tide
to reroot themselves elsewhere, in some other place.
All this from a creature who has no face.
No crises of identity, the ability to simply be
no mind, but no matter, none of the clatter
and chatter of the human brain
No broken-hearted sea peach ever drove itself insane
and its offers of asylum have no locks on either side.
So she chose the book of life, and closed the box on the fox-hide.

Phylum Chordata. The sea peach is a chordate just like me, 
the marine iguana, great horned toad, and the chimpanzee.
Which means we all have spinal-structures just like you,
the giant squid, the gerbil, and the caribou.
Each who shares the chordate name
starts out looking pretty much the same, at least in our prenatal form
then we start to shift our shapes after we’re born.
From guinea hens to wide mouth bass,
we all begin as tadpoles, with something like a head
and something like a tail.
Headstrong and wriggling, just like the rest of us,
prairie chickens, gila monsters, Arctic perch and hippopotamus,    
cheetahs, horses, salamanders, goats and stoats and geese and ganders,
and the sea peach, too, to name but a few.
We all start out with heads and tails
but it’s here in evolution the sea peach derails —
it doesn’t grow a spine, and it doesn’t grow a face
it only grows a sucker to ground itself in place
like a heart who hears the murmur
of its purpose here on earth: it finds a spot
of ocean floor and settles toward rebirth.

She studies the sea peach a very long time
til it seemed she’d almost become one
Not in the sense of losing her spine,
but the sense of trusting in someone
First comes a voice, then comes a choice.
Maybe it comes from within and ripples without,
and quietly it tells you what your life is about
in murmured whispers thumping somewhere in your chest.
Or it comes from without and touches within,
and it opens up a million tiny eyes on your skin
and you can see clearly now.