by Camille Ferguson
Also called: molly, redeye, goggle-eye, red-eyed bream, strawberry perch.
Mo-mouth, stumpknocker, limb-bream.
You are mouthfull. Some think
you’re named for having more mouth than your relatives,
& that you’ve been mispronounced (warmouth/more
mouth/warmouth/more mouth) over time.
People say you’re all mouth, which, as opposed to
being described as all heart, I can tell you
that’s not a bad thing to be.
Often I daydream about discarding my heart
& letting everything it had been holding spill
out of my lips, which is to say I wish I was mouthier.
Others believe you’re named for your stripes,
resembling warpaint used by Native Americans.
& others, still, offer an odd logic
on the origin of your name:
got a mouth so big you could have a war in it!
I think we relate too often in terms of violence.
So I call you something silly, like google-eye, like stumpknocker. Sometimes we need something light.
You avoid the light, which is a funny thing for a sunfish
to do. You have teeth on your tongue, & rungs
along your throat like a ridged shell, or a mountainous cave.
If one were to only view you through your open mouth,
they would think you much larger than you are.
You eat almost anything—waterfleas,
aquatic sowbugs, crayfish, small crustaceans—
but you aren’t often eaten. (People often describe
your taste as muddy. It is funny to expect a bottom
feeder to taste of something other than the bottom
of whatever water they feed in)
Some people do, catch & eat you.
They cook mudfish nuggets in hot grease.
It is lucky, however,
in this world, not to be devoured.
You are not intensely desired.
You are not in danger, yet.
You are, in fact, a least concern.
This is the best thing you can be.
(As a human, every time you learn about a creature,
especially one with goggle-eyes, gigantic mouths
& little stained glass mohawks, you must
google their conservation status, hold your breath & hope
for the words least concern to appear before you.)
You are in the water all around me, elusive,
hiding amongst vegetation, red-eyed,
golden-bellied, being mistaken for other fish
(rock-bass, green sunfish)
& called by names that don’t fit
worrying only about what to put into your very large mouth
today & chew up with your tooth-speckled-tongue,
& deciding ultimately on what is nearest—delicious.
They say fish don’t feel pain. I wish you could
open your enormous mouth & tell us.
I’m out here listening.
Eastern ForktailLindsay Barba
Common MilkweedDelilah McCrea
Showy OrchisBill Newby
American Witch-hazelQuartez Harris
Common PawpawIsaiah Back-Gaal
Common Garter SnakeCait Young
Common DewberryPeter McWilliams
North American River OtterAnastasios Mihalopoulos
Winter FireflyIsaiah Hunt
Giant Leopard MothAlex Saba
Virginia BluebellsBronlynn Thurman
American RobinKari Gunter-Seymour
American CrowJason Harris
Eastern CottontailEros Livieratos
Bald-faced HornetKJ Ceranowski
Poverty OatgrassHaylee Schwenk
Song SparrowVirginia Konchan
Wood DuckDiana Lueptow
Japanese HoneysuckleShei Sanchez
Yellow BullheadTed Lardner
Funeral BellTishon Woolcock
Common DandelionCora Liderbach
Splendid Earth-Boring BeetleKortney Morrow
Snapping TurtleJessica Jewell
Poison IvyMarina Vladova
Pharaoh CicadaCathy Barber
Northern Dusky SlugRay McNiece
Big Brown BatSujata Lakhe
Barred OwlCourtney Noster
Long-eared OwlMichael Loderstedt
Isabella Tiger MothLeah Graham
American SycamoreMegan Lubey
Water Forget-Me-NotAlyssa Perry
Yellow-dusted Cream MothCass Penegor
Painted-cup PaintbrushHilary Plum
Masked BeesZach Savich
TrilliumKimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson
Eastern Tiger SwallowtailKira Preneta
Great Blue HeronDan Dorman
American SweetgumCaryl Pagel
Painted TurtleRebekah Ainsworth
Green DarnerMarion Boyer
American BeaverKatie Daley
Eastern Screech-OwlDr. R. Ray Gehani
Spring PeeperBarbara Sabol
Eastern Carpenter BeeSylvia Clark
Jacob's LadderRisha Nicole
Candleflame LichenClara Britton
Eastern NewtElizabeth Ryan
American BullfrogLaura Grace Weldon
American ChestnutCarrie George
American GoldfinchMarybeth Cieplinski
American Giant MillipedeMary Quade
American HornbeamJeff Gundy
American White WaterlilyGeoffry Polk
Artist’s BracketSusann Moeller
Banded Fishing SpiderCharlie Malone
Common Star-of-BethlehemBrita Alaburda
Common StonefliesKaren Schubert
Eastern ChipmunkNathan Kemp
Eastern Tent Caterpillar MothZachary Thomas
Eastern Red-backed SalamanderTovli Simiryan
Firefly BeetleJacquie Peoples Dukes
Gray CatbirdTheresa Brightman
Great MulleinLaurie Kincer
Green HeronPaula J. Lambert
Interrupted FernKathleen Cerveny
Meadow VoleRoberta Jupin
Monarch ButterflyDeborah Fleming
Pearl CrescentMonica Kaiser
Poison HemlockJon Conley
Red-Headed Ground BeetleBob King
Star JelliesCameron Gorman
Sugar MapleSteve Brightman
Turkey VultureAndrew Gilkey
White-footed MouseMichelle Bissell
White-tailed DeerBenjamin Rhodes
Wild CarrotJessica Jones
Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.