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.)

Advertisements

The Harbor

You see, there is a pond and a telephone pole
“You see” is the vernacular
It is the language of the immigrant just off the boat
So polite, softening the blow
Or the one explaining to the one stepping off the boat
The condescending or begging side of it
That is our patriotism
A pond and a telephone pole at a polite distance
Maybe it is a large pond
Generally, I don’t really know what the size of anything is in life
I’m not Home Depot
The late evening light above these two things is not fair
The evening clouds above this duo are in riot beauty gear
Orange fluorescence of clouds, like looking up into the piled guts
Of some weird divinity
You don’t want to put a face to it
Let it stay guts
Those people can admittedly be annoying
The ones who need a face attached to it
Admittedly, it exists!
Am I already on the other side?
As the clouds move, as they “off themselves” in the vernacular
It is a feeling like soap
I am bathing old limbs of my mind
In this new soap
It is a feeling like a thought
For the telephone pole (that could have been there a century)
And the pond of indeterminate scale or size
Think the colors like a painting where you don’t know where anything                                                                                                                 begins or ends
Some sorta Whoville maybe
The clouds are set design, they are being changed
No other structure anywhere near these things
(I don’t count me)
Just myself and a spinning armor of a compass
Just myself and a spinning arrow of a compass
I meant
Do you  why Freudian analysis was in the humanities, really,
And not in science, and you are really too young to remember Freud,
The targets he put on heads
Freudianism, it’s a feeling     maybe a sap
It is shooting a b.b. gun, for sure
I have come to watch it freeze      I mean a lake      pond
You see, I have enlarged its idea already in my mind
Like a pawnbroker, like a realist
There is this grocery list
I have plagiarized reality
I have come to stare at this pond and its (I think its) pole
I have come to watch it freeze to death
Certainly
That disincarnate side, it is talking most
Though you are a stranger, I know
There are rules to you, to baseball, to everything
In your incertitude of being, its warmth, it is freezing
In your uncertitude of being, its warmth, it is freezing
I prefer it wrong
The surface of the pond is an old television
And an old dead t.v. moves in wind out there somewhere across the ice
I hadn’t realized it had already frozen
No longer an old broken television set hockey puck howling winds
Like a television show
I hadn’t realized it had froze
Fast to earth        as babe to tit
That quick or how long was I standing here?
Somebody tried to throw it through the surface
To crack the pond’s face mightily, to operatically break it
But all they did was craze its face with details
Hypnotic thousandfold details
Scratched black vinyl in the middle of the night
When the moon is shy
The way we will be reliving our lives as musical variations with age
It is no use trying to be like today today
Standing around on a street corner doing nothing you’d do better
The surface crunches underfoot   crazies     talks to itself
When I walk out on the ice to pet the t.v.
It has a face pointed to the west
It is getting dark
It has a kind face
A youthful face though it is lying
Will anyone ever fish it out
After it falls through?
It’s like theory
It is like meeting you today or it was meeting you today
Which was, I think, spitting watermelon seeds    erotically
Into each other’s mouths like a performance in a basement
We were in folding chairs
You will wish to recall
I’m sorry, this is not a poem;  this is an arson
All aboard, I hope
Unless you have been displaced too as this pond, this telephone pole
Unless you are safely cold
Like the pole and lake or pond whatever it is
At least they have each other
I mean god,  could you imagine it if it was just either one out there?

 

Gorillas

A frustrated man in an unhappy marriage traded in his wife for a gorilla.

It was a male gorilla, but the man put it in a truly vavoom pink polka dot dress, put makeup on its face, and placed a smart, pink toque on its head. The he took the gorilla out, everywhere, just as he had been accustomed to do with his wife.

The man was able to take the lead when they walked together and even steer this “ship of two,” and the gorilla didn’t run away from him in the stores to look at clothing or jewelry or other shiny things such as would formerly happen with his wife.

The man was now able to speak first. He was able to speak as much as he wanted also. But he didn’t know how to speak first and the gorilla couldn’t speak, so they went everywhere together in total silence.

Other men in shopping malls would see the man and his gorilla walking together, the man’s right arm wrapped around the hairy, left arm of his companion in a somewhat forceful, proprietary manner, and use this example, this object lesson, to demean the wives or girlfriends walking beside them.

“She might not be much to look at,” they would say while staring directly into their partners’ faces with the searchlight of an unstated accusation, “but just look at how well he’s got her trained.”

And then the wives or girlfriends would look at the sarcastic, smug expressions on the faces of their husbands or boyfriends and immediately think about replacing them with gorillas.

The Cashier

In the Dollar Tree located right across the small street from the rather deadly housing projects, there is an interesting cashier.

She is young enough to be a natural artist. She is old enough to feel death crowning in her. In other words, she’s an aging kid.

Whenever she gets a customer all by himself or herself, young or old, when there’s no one else in line, no one else in the store, she pauses before handing them their merchandise in those depressingly bright cellophane bags with the store’s name printed on them.

She clears her throat in an almost undetectable way, and then she launches into this fantasia: “You are standing in your grave. This is as good as it’s going to get. The happiest days, all the most oblivious ones, are well behind you. It will not get better. It will get worse. At first, it will be like a record skipping. It will happen subtly, it will happen slowly. You’ll have little dips, little trips to the emergency room, little jaunts to the psychiatrists. Then it will increase. The aftershocks will outdo the earthquake. You will spurn friendships as nothing more than shared miseries. You won’t even possess the imagination or willpower to cheat on your spouse. Parts of you will begin to turn to Playdoh and other parts to steel. Your pubic hair will look like a dead ferret. And then you will realize, near the end, self-stripped of all friends and family, that someone is standing on your head. Someone is standing on your head as you stand in your grave and you begin to sink. You can’t even tell who it is. You can’t look up. But they’re there for sure, and you have the pain of those constantly shifting shoes on the top of your skull to prove it. Because the floor of your grave is wet mud, it’s quicksand, and you’re just going down into it. Like dogshit. Inch by inch. And your hands are tied up. Your hands are holding these cellophane bags full of shit from the dollar store. Your cat food and batteries and off-brand pudding boxes are causing you to sink deeper into the final quagmire, which will probably be a struggle for breath and a prayer to a nonexistent deity, beseeching him for merciful help in stabilizing your skipping heart, which is now like a stone sent skittering over a rain pond in an auto graveyard. Your fate is ricocheting off other’s people’s faces, they’re talking behind your back in your hospital room, and your sinking blood pressure won’t let you even argue with them. You will no longer be able to even do the basic things a body must do to remain a viable blood balloon floating around this planet. That’s it. The earth like a too-thick chocolate milkshake closes over your head and then the top of your head, which is bald anyway, already showing your skull through its skin, and you begin drinking that milkshake of death through all the holes in your face and skull. You sink down into nothingness It’s the best day you ever had. The End.”

And she always ends with “Thank You. Have a nice day.”

The respectable thing is that she delivers this in a really dead monotone. It’s like she doesn’t even care whether you’re listening.

Most of the people just say, “Thank You” back like being dead is no big deal. Probably most of them already knew all this shit. She did cause a few to go into deep depressions. But probably she thinks that is good for them. Maybe she’s right. Who knows.

One day, she will be gone from that Dollar Tree. In her place will be a man who has all the spirit of a broken calculator on a card table at a yard sale.

And that cashier will attempt to smile, and it will feel as though someone has just stapled your body. It will feel as though someone has just stapled your body somewhere very unpleasant to be stapled.

A Bay

Some young men are playing pool and watching as the sails of a small boat become pure distance out on the bay. When the sun gets low enough, it breaks up their syntax. Their young women are holding their babies in hard chairs, in dark corners of this room. The young women are going deep inside themselves and watching, jogging their babies on their knees as young printers will do with sheaves of paper. The room’s high ceiling is covered with a ridiculously ornate, white boiserie that fell from a high style so long ago that nobody can even remember. It looks like swallows should nest in it. Drinks move at an agreed-upon level in space, and space is agreed upon too, except where certain emotions flare up like sunspots or the fringes of a corona. A handful of hours later, after night puts a bandage to this scene, the thing mistakenly called silence plays like the faintest old record in there. The smoky bay is the last to leave this room (and, really, not until morning). The bay turns the blue walls of this room even bluer, gives out many somnolent shades that percolate in drizzled dark, and when the light finally comes around like a headache, it collects all these synonyms for the night and leaves.