Embrace of the Electric Eel
For thirty-five years, Father, you were a numb-fish,
I couldn’t quite remember what it felt like
that last time you hugged me when I was eight,
just before you went away.
But when you summon me to your stagnant pool,
Dad, Papa, whatever I should call the creature
that you are, now you finally ask for my love:
do you think I’ve become strong as the horses
Humboldt forced into a stream
to test the voltage of Amazonian eels?
He had never witnessed
“such a picturesque spectacle of nature”
as those great eels clamped against the bellies
of his threshing horses, how their eyes
almost popped out and their manes stood on end.
Though the jolt alone did not kill them,
many were so stunned they drowned.
That’s how it is, Father, when you open your arms
and press your entire length against my trunk.
(from The Zoo Father, Seren, 2001 – to be re-printed by Seren in 2012)
Pascale Petit‘s fifth collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo was published by Seren in the UK (2010) and Black Lawrence Press in the US (2011). The UK edition was shortlisted for both the T S Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year, and was a book of the year in the Observer. She tutors poetry courses at Tate Modern.