Fisherman

A man was night fishing at surf’s edge in the darkness of a new moon.

He felt a strong tug on his rod and the battle began with what he thought must be a hammerhead shark. But as he began to win the contest and reeled the creature to shore, he saw a tumble of arms and legs. These were so pale that they glowed with their own sort of moonlight. These human limbs were almost phosphorescent.

It was a boy, he figured a corpse, some luckless soul drowned at sea.

As he pulled the body onto dry sand, using his hands now, he heard a sputtering, and fish-like sounds came from the mouth. Though it appeared to be a boy with long jet black hair, webs and fins were all about the body. This “boy” had human legs. It was not a merman. The creature seemed stunned from having been pulled from its element.

“Speak!” the man commanded the creature.

But it could only gurgle in the air. Perhaps, he thought, it could speak only underwater.

So the fisherman took his club and beat it to death.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When the fisherman served the flesh of the sea creature in a soup to his son, the boy was puzzled by the strange taste.

“What sort of fish is this?” he asked. A clear distaste was evident in his face, the twisting of his handsome features.

“Monkfish,” the father replied, without looking up from his own bowl.

They had only each other as family. The boy’s mother had died in childbirth. He had learned to trust his father. Though the young man did not like the taste of the strange “fish,” in fact despised it, he dutifully finished the meal.

Soon after that night, the fisherman’s son fell sick. He fell into a torpor and then a fever. He raved in his bed as he tossed and turned. He talked constantly of the sea. He told his father he would die if he were not placed in the sea.

A doctor was consulted but could do nothing. The father felt great shame for having fed his son the flesh of the creature. Oddly enough, he himself had not fallen ill, though he had eaten the same meal.

After more than a week of his son’s suffering and worsening of his condition, the father took his son to the sea. The moon was now restored, bright. He carried the boy to the surf’s edge. He laid him in the soothing, wet sand.

As soon as he began splashing some water on his son’s face, the boy seemed to improve a little. He said it helped.

“These clothes,” his son moaned. The father understood and helped him out of his sweat-drenched vestments. He was horrified to see the fins that had sprouted on his son’s arms, on his legs near his ankles, the webbing between his toes and around his neck.

The boy began to crawl towards the sea.

The father saw him struggling and helped him to reach a depth of water where he could float. He could feel his son growing stronger by the minute as they went further into the ocean.

His son smiled. Then he laughed.

“Thank you, father. Thank you thank you thank thank you….” he said as he swam away.

(This is my adaptation of a Japanese folktale of which countless versions exist.)

Night Snow

It is laid
and it falls.
It is here
and there
and every page
of the night
forgets its number.
It is though
and it is past
and it is coming
as the cyclops
eye of a train
delayed a mere
few centuries.
You know
the whistle.
It lays down
a tablecloth
over the lake.
It is in the lamps
of the streetlights
and the dark places
between houses
where they
cannot touch
but only grow bars
and other places
where people
become mushrooms,
can only
look and look
at the brightness
between
all things
dead and busy
in the darkness,
through no window.

The Stare

I keep opening the front door
of this cold house,
middle of the night,

to look out into the snow.

So many prepositions in the snow.

It is here and it is falling.

No one home but me.
And no one expected.

But the little cat tracks in the snow!
Who comes to visit
this frozen

food bowl on my porch?

It is everything

mimicking the night.

And no one home.
And no one expected.

Let

Let the hospice in,
they all tell  me.
Death is a group activity now,
like volleyball
or a well-attended book club.
The morphine won’t be like chewing gum,
until it is,
and the body
is just a car in neutral, drifting back.
But that body
is where you came into the earth.
It was the first voice
to talk to you in the cold.
It was your voice
giving shape to you,
helping you compose
the wet trap you call your mind.
And now they want you
to be the voice
to subtract that voice,
her body,
your one door in.
It’s clear you are not neutral
and they want neutrality,
someone to let the vehicle just drift
back into an ocean
where all the parts dissolve,
where the notion of a driver
is just superfluous,
as there will be nothing left
but the ocean
in its salty rhythms
through an imagined vehicle.
It is as simple as the fact
of a house sliding
into the sea,
they promise, they say.
It is a house sliding
into the sea, you say.
The eyes, the oriels
of the soul, will be the last thing
you lose, and ever look
down, for, henceforth,
as even the sea
has a hard time
digesting the lucidity
of love. And she will be
in them, the windows
underneath,
looking back,
always. (Note how
prepositions
and adverbs
increase with grief,
a directionless
thing.) The prepositions
and adverbs
try to hold
and orient
each other
as we are
quantum-spun
somewhere
in between
the pocketed
voids
of someone
being
and not
being
there.

 

 

 

The Problem with the Moon

The poems start to sound the same,
all of them, the whining
and the mystical ones alike.
So you sit back on your bed
and stare at the same moon
in the same window,
wondering why it doesn’t have
somewhere better to be.
It’s trapped in that boring career
across the sky and poems.
You insult the moon to its face,
its big, fat, snail’s pace face,
but it doesn’t care.
It’s famous, you see.
And famous usually means
full of sameness. And hey,
anyway, did you ever notice
how it shrivels up until it’s just thumbing
its sharp nose at everyone,
and especially the poets
trapped in its dharma?

Telling it Plain

The old pipes in this house
scream in the middle of the night.
Not as lovers scream
in motel or wedding bed.
Not as ghosts scream,
as oracle or agony of injustice.
They scream only as old, rusted
things scream
when they have been buried
within walls too many
run-on years.

Still, you taste
the weird tang,
the poetry
of rust,

and will spend it
somewhere
like a quarter
you found

on a winter street.

some haiku for a new year

 

wheel of sparrows
on birdseed ensō
I poured out back

 

 

winter laid at the mercy
of the spring

Lizzie Borden

 

 

trees stood side by side
a hundred and twenty years
no touching

 

car on cinder blocks
cat maternity ward
window down to flirt

 

 

moon spent the night
at your place one spring night
lost its car keys

 

 

a new year’s door
propped open for guests
fog comes in

 

 

these stairs to subway

people the fog descending

to ride in human light

 

 

the moon
forgets where it lives
stops me to ask

 

 

dreams make a movie
of things unmovielike
unhand me, it says

 

 

enter stagnant pond
to gleam as emeralds
duckweed jeweled necklace

 

 

trees pencil the highway
no one around for miles
ideas flock

 

 

birdseed ensō
in galactic spiral
poured from Big Gulp cup