The Caper of the Missing Koi by Luisa Villani



How to still the gills

                                        until they need to go

how to go

                                        from the black waters 

of the world

                             to the white waters of the tub

                                                             how to modulate time

how to time it right

                                       so the soft sucking 

on the meat of the palm

                                                  keeps sucking all the way home

how to get home

                                       from a job so colorful 

and thankless

                                       it steals 

                                                              what can’t be stolen

how to steal 

                                                   seven pounds of gold

and keep them floating 


                                                   how to saki up a fish

how to remake the sleeve

                                                   so it hides the pregnant arm

how to bend that arm just so

                                                                    (the hand at 45 º

preventing the leak of secrets)

                                                             how to secret it away

at the end of the shift

                                            the close of the light

the pause in the story

                                            how to get your story straight

to be genuine 

                             when you say 

                                                                         Are you sure

there was a female in there?

                                                                         how to play your part 

in the mystery

                                especially when it mysteriously 


                  minus its cargo of daughters

                                                                          how they might 

think they know everything

                                                    those generations 

born with 

          no memory of darkness




Luisa Villani is currently a Wallis Annenberg Fellow at The University of Southern Califonia, where she is completing a Ph.D.  She holds degrees in English from California State University Northridge, a Masters in Fine Art in Poetry and a Masters in Women’s Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. She has taught English in Russia and the Ukraine, and in 1997 was the coordinator for Project Chiapas, a nonprofit organization which conducted a field study of the environmental impact of government policies and indigenous politics at the Na-Bolom Cultural Museum in San Cristobal, Mexico.  Her poems have appeared in Many Mountains Moving, Hotel Amerika, The New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Hiram Poetry Review, and other distinguished literary journals.