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Can I Keep Them? by Moriah Roland

The Ocean Voyager Exhibit by

Whenever my eyes close I see it:

The whale sharks drone above me

Beside me

Around me

A pocket of air escapes my lungs and floats to the surface

A sea turtle nips at the ball and chain

Tied to my sore ankles

I didn't mind the water all too much

If only it didn’t feel as if my lungs were being crushed

I can see the two walls beside me, painted to resemble

A free and expansive ocean

Above, the harsh white ceiling lamps shine into our tank

I look at the viewing window, and all I see is a reflection

Of my water-logged skin

And empty reddened eyes

Hair being tussled by a manta ray,

With a gray nub replacing his stinger

The glass holds a lie: I know I have an audience

The glass holds a truth: It shows me who’s at fault

Exiled to the depths of my mind,

I wait in place for the water to flood my small lungs

And for the salt to make me anew

The whale sharks are beautiful

Oh giant floating mass of wisdom

I wish I was just like you

Gigantic, mindless, idolized

Pacing your football-field sized cage

When all of this is said and done,

Will they find my rotting corpse in your carnivorous maw?

The ball stays cemented in the sand

The chain floats freely between us

A gasp is all it takes.

The inky water sucks the air out of my lungs

And the audience of past mistakes

(Would-be’s, talk-to-you-later’s, and i-love-you’s)

Watch the person I used to be

Drown in that most gorgeous place

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