You are bare-breasted and mask-mouthed, watching the lines
rise on the monitor, then fall in scalene planes. Measuring
from point to point, the technician pauses, hand with the wand on
your left breast, propping it up as the muscle pulses on screen,
dense tissue gone gossamer. A winter catfish out of its
mud-slumber, your heart is sluggish one second, racing to
come bask in a sunspot the next. As he probes, you breathe
back in your coffee-scented air, count the times the fish tries
to flip, evading the hook. After, the cardiologist inventories your
life, says that he too lost his brother young to a widow-maker
without warning. But your tachycardia is idiopathic, if anyone is
asking. The fish wants out of the lake of your throat, wants to know
why it’s swimming, gills exposed, awake in the wrong season.
Jen Karetnick’s fourth full-length book is The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books 2020). She is also the author of Hunger Until It’s Pain (Salmon Poetry 2023) in addition to eight other collections. Karetnick has won the Tiferet Writing Contest for Poetry, the Hart Crane Memorial Prize, and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, among others, and has been an Artist in Residence in the Everglades, a Deering Estate Artist in Residence, and a Maryland Purple Line Transit grant recipient. Co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, she has work appearing recently in Barrow Street, Comstock Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Terrain.org, and elsewhere. Based in Miami, Jen works as a lifestyle journalist and is also the author of four cookbooks, four guidebooks, and more.
Image: “Out and About” by Abby Zarakovich