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Touchpool


ISSUE:  Winter 2004

We are the oldest people in line waiting to pet
a baby sand shark. Hundreds of children pat

the baby on the back, avoid extra splashing.
But when it’s our turn, I pause. The guide says

just rub in one direction or you might get burned
from the rough skin. I panic. Suddenly, its eyes

are white hot and the touchpool clouds over
from the flipping of its tail. You roll your eyes,

start to leave me and move on to the otter exhibit
so I slip my hand over the shark and it darts—

it hadn’t moved for anyone else today says the guide—
but it moved for me. The pads of my fingers spark

tiny droplets of blood that I suck and you ask if
I can taste shark. When you and I are finished,

it’s this sting I remember—the pain from touching
too quickly, fingertips rubbed salty and raw.

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