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Invention of Light

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Invention of Light (astyanax mexicanus)


In the bowels of Mexico

there is a black lake inside a cave

where sunlight was extinguished

centuries ago.


In this lake resides

a small colony that swims

blind in darkness.


Evolved beyond sight, now born

with two tiny vacancies in their heads.


As far as they know, light

has never been invented –


and the rest of the world

does not exist until

something snatches one fish

out of the current of his life.



He would say it was the hand of God

if he knew what a hand or a god was.


He does not have a name

for the scientists either.


Falls asleep to the sound of beeping monitors,

wakes to an explosion in his skull.


Duel detonations where new eyes are placed.

Everything happens at once


and his heart explodes.

Scientists will never know


if this reaction was caused by amazement

or terror. Take note:



You are not a fish.


You do not live in a cave in Mexico

but the longer you exist in shadows,

allow your eyes to turn to sinkholes,


the harsher the light

when it finds you.


One of Us Has Changed (atmospheric convection)

At the right angle, those incisors glint,

poorly concealed weapons

under your new hostile snarl.


Temperature drops as if we stand

in the shadow of an ominous figure

who intends us harm.


Sky darkens the shade of a bruise,

old excitement reverberates

up my spine as the first thunder rolls.


Watch you whip yourself

into the biggest monster

atmosphere can sustain.


Locked doors, boarded windows

are useless prayers pleading

to a fist in motion.


Somewhere you inhale

someone’s life. Spit out

their splinters and bones.


Hypnotic as an injury,

the fascination festers. Try to look

away, the sky lights up again.


Endless Echoes (watching me watch you)

I’m watching you

smile. Your laughter

familiar as my own,

a faded echo

like my own.

The warm breeze

musses your hair

brushes my skin again.

I can feel it

even if it’s not here. Outside


a blizzard erases the world.

My fingers skim

the shadows around the television screen

like the surface of a black lake.

The summer sun


shines as if night or winter

will never touch my skin again.

You, trying to coerce me

into the ocean. Warm as bath water,

you say. I hear myself


refusing. My voice

sounds unlike me.


Why did I not join you?

That moment. I wanted to

capture you. Swimming away,

eyes closed. Marco, you call.




Polo. I whisper to the empty room.


Saying this a thousand times

will not summon you back.


The sun shines

through the dim glow

of the television

emitting no warmth.


I caught you.

I lost you. I turn

the video off.




Let the Boat Go, Take My Hand (dry drowning)

           Gentle push


away from the shore


            directionless across the lake


unmanned vessel


             drifts away


dissolves in mist


              lost to us


even if we know


              where it is


no going




except back




for either of us



You’ve been listening to poetry by Joseph Kerschbaum on the Poets Weave. I’m Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.

Blind cave fish.

Astyanax mexicanus, blind cave fish. (David J. Stang, Wikimedia)

Joseph Kerschbaum has published eight collections of poetry and two spoken word albums. His most recent publications include Mirror Box, forthcoming from Main Street Rag in 2020, and Distant Shores of a Split Second, published by Louisiana Literature Press in 2018. Joseph lives in Bloomington with his family.

On this edition of the Poets Weave, Joseph reads "Invention of Light (astyanax mexicanus)," "One of Us Has Changed (atmospheric convection)," "Endless Echoes (watching me watch you)," and "Let the Boat Go, Take My Hand (dry drowning)."

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