NOR 19 #37: Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

By Ösel Jessica Plante

Featured Art: Group of Abstract Nudes by Carl Newman

There is something crooked about his mouth,
and though he’s obviously going to go bald soon,
his eyebrows are like kind, squat
temples above his eyes, one pupil dilated slightly
more than the other. This is what’s it’s like
to be single—to stare at a picture of a man online
and wonder, what does he smell like? What

would it feel like to wake up beside him
after two years of living together? I want
to believe that all relationships are mistakes
waiting to happen, have that built-in obsolescence
and are the reason why I finally like that saying
about the woman, a fish, and a bicycle. I like
imagining that fish upright underwater with its fins
spinning in loose circles the same way we pedaled
our feet in the air today during yoga to warm up
our thighs. Love’s made a fool of me once
too often. It’s like standing over a car engine—
I don’t know the rules for recalibrating
or even how to change the oil. It’s just that
every man looks like laundry and concession, even
the doctor with great abs my sister tells me she’s seen
at the soccer field with his son. I wonder if he wakes
in the morning and cooks his kid oatmeal,
I wonder where his ex-wife is now and whether she’s felt it,
how love is at first a greening, how even the bright
trees shuddering their shadows across our faces seem
a delicious sensation, I wonder that we’re able to hold
in abeyance the blade that will come to cut away all
that softness and leave in its place the ribs of something
enormous like the hull of a shipwreck, love having split
a way for something new, the bones of the world exposed.


Ösel Jessica Plante’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Best New Poets 2017 & 2019, Best Small Fictions 2016, Blackbird, Crazyhorse, and Narrative Magazine, among others. She is winner of the 2018 Meridian Editors Prize in poetry, Honorable Mention in the 2018 Gulf Coast Prize, and Finalist in the 2019 Nimrod International Literary Awards. She is a former fellow of the Vermont Studio Center. She holds an MA in English from the University of North Texas, an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a PhD in poetry from Florida State University. She lives in Portland, OR.

Originally published in Issue 19.

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