Reasons for Being 

Inspired by Marisol Escobar’s “Zebra Soma” (1971)

by Delali Ayivor

Zebra Soma (1971) by Marisol Escobar
(wood, varnish, plastic; 65″ x 78″ x 15″)

Months of imagining life in diving skins
has turned her skin to scales
and Marisol is beginning to believe
she can breathe underwater.

She becomes too feral
to be above ground.
After decades of carving irony
in crude, forced perspective
she is sick of human nature,
needs to simply be.

Marisol has always believed
in escape through a higher power
and she knows God is in the water,
learned to place the calm liquid
on her forehead and wrists
every time she entered
and abandoned church.

She starts small, weekly trips to the aquarium
where she stands with the tip of her nose to the glass,
watches the belugas ripple by.
She learns to savor the sensation
of her face bathed in blue,
talks even less than normal,
takes only baths.

She imagines traveling to Venezuela
discarding her Parisian birth
and becoming the wild.
In her dreams she is old
and naked, standing outside a shack
surrounded by fruit trees,
her skin damp from humidity,
her feet sticky from rotting mangoes.
She takes one step into a flowing river
then shimmers, transforms
into a creature other than human,
a fish- something bigger than mystical,
something she was always meant to be.

Inspired, she burnishes wood to the shine
of rock pounded by water over centuries,
textures the slick underbelly of a Zebra Soma
with lines reminiscent of tadpoles, of milt.

She loses herself in her work,
stops dreaming completely.
But when she carves her face into the fish
it is not placid but smothered,
her eyes bulbous,
her mouth pursed
as she struggles to hold her breath.

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