Koi Pond, Oakland Museum

Koi Pond, Oakland Museum
by Susan Kolodny
Our shadows bring them from the shadows:
a yolk-yellow one with a navy pattern
like a Japanese woodblock print of fish scales.
A fat 18-karat one splashed with gaudy purple
and a patch of gray. One with a gold head,
a body skim-milk-white, trailing ventral fins
like half-folded fans of lace.
A poppy-red, faintly disheveled one,
and one, compact, all indigo in faint green water.
They wear comical whiskers and gather beneath us
as we lean on the cement railing
in indecisive late-December light,
and because we do not feed them, they pass,
then they loop and circle back. Loop and circle. Loop.
“Look,” you say, “beneath them.” Beneath them,
like a subplot or a motive, is a school
of uniformly dark ones, smaller, unadorned,
perhaps another species, living in the shadow
of the gold, purple, yellow, indigo, and white,
seeking the mired roots and dusky grasses,
unliveried, the quieter beneath the quiet.

0 thoughts on “Koi Pond, Oakland Museum

  1. An enchanting experience linking humans to carp, I presume, but never designated, not even as fish. Their colors and shapes, though, are discretely described, as humans might be, in their array. And both gather to observe one another. The middle of the poem including “in indecisive late-December light and because we do not feed them, they pass,” together with the loops and circles, indicate the species’ inherent ambivalence to commune. Then the “uniformly dark ones, smaller, unadorned” are pointed out beneath them, “the quieter beneath the quiet,” an exquisite phrase, which I interpret as the unconscious brooding perhaps beneath both species. “Our shadows bring them from the shadows” starts the poem, and the dark ones”living in the shadow” of the colorful ones ends it; as though it is the darkness we project–“unliveried” (great word), unbound by appearances–which draws us together.

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