Escaped Housewife Takes Work
at the Floating Cannery

Karen Craigo


The minute she threw her wedding ring
over the stern she had second thoughts.
It flitted fishlike for half a second
beneath the surface, but she believed
she could follow it down, down
to the bottom of the bay.
She saw that the ocean floor was knee-deep
in the detritus of regret—
in prom dresses and bus far, the odd
stoop-shouldered skeleton
with palms upturned. Her fingers
are naked under her rubber gloves.

She has learned to detect the grid
on the bellies of salmon, the dotted line
where the knife goes in.
She has whispered there, there, felt the fish
go calm in her hands.
It only takes a second
to search the stomach, that purse
where the body stows its valuables.

She has told herself if she finds it
she must return, slip into her chair
at the table, resume her conversation
as if she had only slipped away
for a peek into the oven.

Though docked, she could believe
from the angle of light
that each day she inches closer
to warmer latitudes.
She pictures herself facedown
above a coral reef, sipping air
through a straw. But how
will she stop herself
from grasping at angel fish,
from holding them to her ear
and shaking?


"For quite a while, I have been exploring the world of the Escaped Housewife-- my alter ego, a much braver version of myself, one who plays the bagpipes, works as a team mascot, picks up hitchhikers, and here, works at, what I envision as, an Alaskan salmon cannery.

This poem is one of the first Escaped Housewife poems I wrote, and it's my very favorite in the series. I like the way this woman is brave and hapless and still occasionally lucky. She has options, and sometimes things turn out OK for her."

Karen Craigo is the author of two chapbooks, most recently Someone Could Build Something Here (Winged City, 2013), and her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals. She maintains a daily blog, Better View of the Moon, at