Because of the distance from downtown Houston to Upper Kirby, we take an elevated two-lane thruway around the bayou and past what we begin to call
the “Aquarium,” wrapping the word in air quotes.
It looks like its own habitat down there, nestled below the highway, children in their pastel shirts leaving bright-colored streaks hanging on the humidity--
we don’t even need to go inside to witness the depth of this mythology of youth.
Kelsey started putting the name in the now-required quotes because, she said, we’ve driven by a hundred times--
haven’t seen a fish yet. Her skepticism became law, and every time we passed, we’d try to catch a glimpse into the shadowed tunnel that led to the tanks
but our line of sight was blocked by the Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round,
the toddler balancing on her father’s shoulders. And later, pausing between glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, shots of red gin, the glow of a whiskey ginger
we cleave the mythology, assign marine breeds to one another, our drinks--
we are never going to be as young as we are in this moment.
We may never ride that Ferris wheel—see Houston with that occult wisdom--
or order nineteen-dollar cocktails beside the artificial blue, the divers waving in joyful urgency, pointing out the squid or the shark—feigning danger.
But with every street name—Montrose, West Alabama, Kirby-- every Whole Foods, every taqueria, we curate this aboveground habitat-- call it swimming, spinning, spinning.
Michael Schermerhorn is a queer poet and educator living in the belly of Boston. His work explores material culture, the authority of voice, and rural queer identity. When not writing, he spends much of his time seeking the best Cosmo in the most dimly-lit pubs of Boston.