You Want Me to Say It Pretty

but under the poison I was committed to
I can only remember the first five minutes
were so beautiful that it seems impossible

how nearly I lost my own children
to the woman who was willing to leave me

she couldn’t hear the song
I made a music I sang to the feeling I sang
to who it was I thought I was and I heard it

it was an under-the-water-kind-of-song
and the house was filling with water

and the children were fish or so it seemed
but in the morning I could see I was only
asking that they hold their breath that

if they could just hold their breath a little longer
they might become fish and how lovely

to live in a house swimming with light every
prayer slurred so what it was beautiful to me
to cripple the intellect I would say to myself I

was committed to it I hardly noticed how close
I was between not wanting to live and not

knowing how to leave I was that weak
the poison that strong I wanted it to end
but I did not dare bow out

Matthew Nienow is a poet and ship builder living in Port Townsend, Washington. His poems have appeared in Poetry, New England Review, Southwest Review, Narrative and Crazyhorse, among many other journals. His work has twice been anthologized in Best New Poets (2007, 2012) and has earned him awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Elizabeth George Foundation and Artist Trust. He was named a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellow by the Poetry Foundation.