The fish caught seconds earlier, not dead
but less than happy in the summer air,
lies pressed upon the bank’s long grass and reed
until his captor cuts the hook with care
and tells onlookers while a fish may bleed
it can’t feel pain. Like it, onlookers stare
until it leaps. Then, noticing it’s free,
the fish regains the stream, the lake, the sea.
We too played fishers when our world was young,
and hooked whatever bit, and profited
for many noons, and now that shadows long
themselves for cover, we call salmon squid
and quid for quo stands for our marching song.
When you asked me did I love you, then I did,
and we, proud we had legs, took evening walks
investing energy in whispered talks.
What hooked us and we looked upon as love
while reeling, each of us, the other in,
was evolution, golden treasure trove
of progress down from mindless bug to sin
and up from there to faith in an Above
elusive as it’s precious. Don’t begin.
We’ve heard each other out too many times
and know what happens when one of us climbs
beyond our station. Our red-marrow bones
lack the air fillings of the natural flier.
We sink, in spite of aspiration, home
into the river. What was our desire
gels into habit, and inside our room
we throw each other’s papers in the fire
we hope will keep the creeping cold outside
with the dark we sense approaching our blind side.
The salmon who escapes the dam, the bear,
and anglers paying through the nose to kill,
spawns far upstream, at home for its last hour.
Depleted, safe, successful for a spell,
it glories in the sunset of its power
before the scavengers eat its free will
and its predestination, and its flesh.
So little of us passes through the mesh
of the nets that are our destiny, our death.
Descended from the fish who chanced on lungs,
we each, more relative each passing breath,
say absolute good-byes. As sapient beings
we think we know that absolute’s the dearth
of love and living, a sinking pond rock’s rings
that can’t feel pain. I hurt as I break free,
and follow you in stream, and lake, and sea.