Key to the Fresh Water Fishes of Maryland

Rosemary Kitchen


A. We get off the bus, our tracksuit
bottoms Swickswickswicking down the
hill to the boathouse where freshwater
fish float in basins of ice and
formaldehyde, waiting to be identified.
The shimmering bodies weigh slimy and cold
against our open palms, our fingers fumbling
between the accordion folds of pelvic fins to
count spines and soft rays.

B. Sophomore boys snicker as they feel
for the fleshy oviducal sheath around the
anal fin in the female mudminnow. From
across the boathouse
I see a boy named Kyle mouth
Show me on the model where she
let you—

Family: Catostomidae See Suckers


A. Genus: Carpiodes
Park rangers dressed in reflective
vests hand out flimsy clipboards
with dichotomous keys. I tick the
boxes next to each characteristic
like performing an autopsy on my
chances with a boy like Kyle:
mouth inferior, relatively small, lips
fleshy, body naked except for
minute prickles, belly round and

A'. Carpiodes cyprinus, quillback
Through the boathouse windows we
watch the sunrise blush across the sky.
The wind chops foamy crests into the still
surface of Lake Habeeb. Outside, tire
tracks in mud mark all the places cars have
idled on the bank, tangled pairs of
teenagers inside.

B. Genus: Moxostoma Sometimes, Danny, who drives down after class at community
college to teach us marimba— who makes me put down newspaper on his new leather
seats— will let me sit with a hand inside his pants for a whole sunset, or all of that Eagles
song, Hole in the World.

B'. Moxostoma erythrurum, golden redhorse
In the boathouse, Kyle is mouthing Show me on the minnow where you want to be
If anyone had asked me, I might have hooked a finger through the
specimen's open gill, past the pink petal of the gas-bladder, past the capillaries and
the bulbous arteriosus, down to the velvet ventricle of a tiny heart, In here, in here.