Some sharks must swim, constantly, in order to breathe. That’s why, when
confined, she circles the tank like a madwoman.
[I go to see the shark at the aquarium, I find I am unprepared for her
[How to circle a tank? Asks the she-shark, asks the soldier]
A shark must swim constantly. This is how she breathes.
[Eyelid-less, a shark blinks by rolling her eyeballs back into her head, the performance, the oddities, self-care]
[Write a zoo piece, what exhausts, write the water, write her
pretty/ugly, write the blood, or how the blood might look/if/if]
Sharks, for survival, require a constant flow of water against their
bodies; why sharks in aquariums, always in orbit.
[Deadlines vs. lifelines vs. landlines]
[Am I writing her lyric, or my own? How to translate, the poetics of a
constant motion, how to write what is perpetual]
Sharks in aquariums are always in orbit. Again, again. Say it again
[Is there a word for impossible to reciprocate/Is there a word for dying
while being born?]
[I wonder if I should pitch to Shark Tank on live TV, a reading of shark odes and imagined diaries, I would point to pixelated diagrams of a dissected Tiger Shark’s intestines, which would be full of plastic and other human refuse]
A captive shark lives in constant orbit; she depends on the current to
[Survival vs. surviving]
[At the aquarium, the children (want nothing more than to) look the
animals in the eyes]
[The center of this violence, what happens to the water in the middle of her orbit, is she on a track like racehorses, I picture the muscles beneath the skin which is velvet with sweat, does this water go still, stagnant, what is plotted?]
Sharks depend on the current to breathe.
[Our currencies, debt in American dollars, a current is electric, a current is a dance, I press a coin up to the glass to show her what she is missing]
[In some languages, it doesn’t matter what order the words go in, in
Mandarin, the word for comrade is the word for gay, in
French, there is no word for homesick, in Arabic, my name is a pronoun]
A shark, when confined, must maintain a steady orbit. She makes her
own current, then dwells in it.
[Can an animal make its home in a box, a tupperware?]
[Predator vs. predated vs. PredatorTM]
Sharks breathe via two mechanisms: buccal pumping and ram ventilation.
The sand shark, captive at the city aquarium, can perform either and
still, she requires a constant flow of water (slick against her
boneless body) to breathe.
[I meet a friend of a friend who met a girl online who was neighbors
with the woman who was eaten––mistaken––by the shark this August,
Bailey’s Island, the elegiac quality of seaweed, swishing back and forth
as the tide swells, erotics of losing, coming in]
Sharks, creatures, hungering for life.
[I remember the lifeguards huddled together under a grey sky, their salt-stained hands and black sunglasses and hairless bodies, I watched them from the restaurant’s side door, facing their headquarters, the corner with the folding chair, the towels, stacked like tomes, I watched them deliberate, Porpoise, nods nods nods, an old woman came to the window to order, her hair silver as a seal’s]
Captive sharks live in constant orbit (imagine the cosmos).
[Ballerina, in a music box]
In captivity, sharks swim in frantic circles; in the wild, they can
swim great lengths in straight or circuitous pathways because to
breathe, they must be in motion.
[I want to smash my face against the glass and let it break my teeth
into tiny shards (such are dead mollusks, glass apothecary, bait bags, detritus), I want to set
Try to picture a shark at a standstill: you can’t.
[How many ways to circle a tank?]
[And I was unprepared not only to witness her sadness, but to carry it]
Sharks circle the tank like hair circles the drain, in any old
[Studies have shown that Great Whites flee the presence of Orcas and
Orcas have been known to mourn their dead]
A shark in captivity swims in circles. She does so to breathe. She is
ridiculed, conquered, watched.
[I go to the aquarium on a day of blood, I am noticed in the Subway, a
woman looks up from her red book, a man with a tote bag in his lap
stares, just stares, I go to meet the shark and I am bleeding, I reek of
earth or the deep sea, at some point they merge, the shark spins in her
The shark swims like a madwoman in her tank, cutting circles through
the wet blue.
[What entitles us to watch? This sick animal, this sick ethnography, to exert
humanness as the rest die/dry out]
[This sick sick sanctity]
Anna M. Drzewiecki
Anna M. Drzewiecki is a poet and translator. Her reporting appears in Ms. (Online), U.S. News & World Report, and Przekroj Magazine. She is from an island in Casco Bay, though she is often elsewhere