Watson and the Shark

How many times did I think: I don’t love him
And wonder what I was doing
Holding his hand at the MFA in Boston
Looking at Watson and the Shark?

How many times did he say, “It’s my favorite”?
How many times did he tell me why?

It was the shark:
How its mouth was inches from Watson’s hand,
How its eyes looked – not at him – but at us,
As if the whole scene just bored him to death.

Every time we looked at the painting,
He danced his fingers over his lips,
Bared his teeth and growled.

And I thought: Maybe I do love him.

Growing up, he was a milky blond boy
Who had reoccurring dreams of
Stargazing on icebergs with polar bears.
But if I took his hand and pretended to bite it,

He pulled away.

I often asked myself: Which one of us
Is Watson? Which one of us is the shark?
Are we out for blood? Or love?

Icy currents swept up my spine.
Behind us, schools of children swam
The corridor and circled the blue
Room into a whirl, pooling our ship down.

I cringed and thought: I’m turning thirty.

Every day I wanted to leave. Instead I
Pointed to Watson and asked: “Why’s he naked?
Everybody else has clothes on.”

Every time, he said: “I don’t know.
Maybe he fell in that way.”

Watson and the Shark

John Singleton Copley's 'Watson and the Shark'

Anney E. J. Ryan is an English adjunct currently living on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Her work has been featured in The Kenyon Review, Post Road Magazine, Shoofly, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.