Beating his lead, by Hans Faverey

Beating his lead with the blunt
end of his axe, flattening it
in order to forget that he is

a child of death who wants to weight

his net. Until it is suddenly
done and the one who did not disappear
stands in my room, taking me
in; still lying whether I am,

and how. Just as you might ask
a fisherman returning with nothing:
So where’s the fish? And for him to reply,
without resentment, without envy:
The fish—it’s in the sea.

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Semele Recycled, by Carolyn Kizer

After you left me forever,
I was broken into pieces,
and all the pieces flung into the river.
Then the legs crawled ashore
and aimlessly wandered the dusty cow-track.
They became, for a while, a simple roadside shrine:
A tiny table set up between the thighs
held a dusty candle, weed-and-fieldflower chains
placed reverently there by children and old women.
My knees were hung with tin triangular medals
to cure all forms of hysterical disease.

After I died forever in the river,
my torso floated, bloated in the stream,
catching on logs or stones among the eddies.
White water foamed around it, then dislodged it;
after a whirlwind trip, it bumped ashore.
A grizzled old man who scavenged along the banks
had already rescued my arms and put them by,
knowing everything has its uses, sooner or later.

When he found my torso, he called it his canoe,
and, using my arms as paddles,
he rowed me up and down the scummy river.
When catfish nibbled my fingers he scooped them up
and blessed his reusable bait.
Clumsy but serviceable, that canoe!
The trail of blood that was its wake
attracted the carp and eels, and the river turtle,
easily landed, dazed by my tasty red.

A young lad found my head among the rushes
and placed it on a dry stone.
He carefully combed my hair with a bit of shell
and set small offerings before it
which the birds and rats obligingly stole at night,
so it seemed I ate.
And the breeze wound through my mouth and empty sockets
so my lungs would sigh, and my dead tongue mutter.
Attached to my throat like a sacred necklace
was a circlet of small snails.
Soon the villagers came to consult my oracular head
with its waterweed crown.
Seers found occupation, interpreting sighs,
and their papyrus rolls accumulated.

Meanwhile, young boys retrieved my eyes
they used for marbles in a simple game
till somebody’s pretty sister snatched at them
and set them, for luck, in her bridal diadem.
Poor girl! When her future groom caught sight of her,
all eyes, he crossed himself in horror,
and stumbled away in haste
through her dowered meadows.

What then of my heart and organs,
my sacred slit
which loved you best of all?
They were caught in a fisherman’s net
and tossed at night into a pen for swine.
But they shone so by moonlight that the sows stampeded,
trampled one another in fear, to get away.
And the fisherman’s wife, who had thirteen living children
and was contemptuous of holy love,
raked the rest of me onto the compost heap.

Then in their various places and helpful functions,
the altar, oracle, offal, canoe and oars
learned the wild rumor of your return.
The altar leapt up, and ran to the canoe,
scattering candle grease and wilted grasses.
Arms sprang to their sockets, blind hands with nibbled nails
groped their way, aided by loud lamentation,
to the bed of the bride, snatched up those unlucky eyes
from her discarded veil and diadem,
and rammed them home. Oh, what a bright day it was!
This empty body danced on the riverbank.
Hollow, it called and searched among the fields
for those parts that steamed and simmered in the sun,
and never would have found them.

But then your great voice rang out under the skies
my name!—and all those private names
for the parts and places that had loved you best.
And they stirred in their nest of hay and dung.
The distraught old ladies chasing their lost altar,
and the seers pursuing my skull, their lost employment,
and the tumbling boys, who wanted the magic marbles,
and the runaway groom, and the fisherman’s thirteen children
set up such a clamor, with their cries of “Miracle!”
that our two bodies met like a thunderclap
in midday—right at the corner of that wretched field
with its broken fenceposts and startled, skinny cattle.
We fell in a heap on the compost heap
and all our loving parts made love at once,
while the bystanders cheered and prayed and hid their eyes
and then went decently about their business.

And here it is, moonlight again; we’ve bathed in the river
and are sweet and wholesome once more.
We kneel side by side in the sand;
we worship each other in whispers.
But the inner parts remember fermenting hay,
the comfortable odor of dung, the animal incense,
and passion, its bloody labor,
its birth and rebirth and decay.

Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets, by David Young

It’s summer, 1956, in Maine, a camp resort
on Belgrade Lakes, and I am cleaning fish,
part of my job, along with luggage, firewood,
Sunday ice cream, waking everyone
by jogging around the island every morning
swinging a rattle I hold in front of me
to break the nightly spider threads.
Adlai Stevenson is being nominated,
but won’t, again, beat Eisenhower,
sad fact I’m half aware of, steeped as I am
in Russian novels, bathing in the tea-
brown lake, startling a deer and chasing it by canoe
as it swims from the island to the mainland.
I’m good at cleaning fish: lake trout,
those beautiful deep swimmers, brown trout,
I can fillet them and take them to the cook
and the grateful fisherman may send a piece
back from his table to mine, a salute.
I clean in a swarm of yellow jackets,
sure they won’t sting me, so they don’t,
though they can’t resist the fish, the slime,
the guts that drop into the bucket, they’re mad
for meat, fresh death, they swarm around
whenever I work at this outdoor sink
with somebody’s loving catch.
Later this summer we’ll find their nest
and burn it one night with a blowtorch
applied to the entrance, the paper hotel
glowing with fire and smoke like a lantern,
full of the death-bees, hornets, whatever they are,
that drop like little coals
and an oily smoke that rolls through the trees
into the night of the last American summer
next to this one, 36 years away, to show me
time is a pomegranate, many-chambered,
nothing like what I thought.

Salmon, by Kim Addonizio

In this shallow creek
they flop and writhe forward as the dead
float back toward them. Oh, I know

what I should say: fierce burning in the body
as her eggs burst free, milky cloud
of sperm as he quickens them. I should stand

on the bridge with my camera,
frame the white froth of rapids where one
arcs up for an instant in its final grace.

But I have to go down among
the rocks the glacier left
and squat at the edge of the water

where a stinking pile of them lies,
where one crow balances and sinks
its beak into a gelid eye.

I have to study the small holes
gouged into their skin, their useless gills,
their gowns of black flies. I can’t

make them sing. I want to,
but all they do is open
their mouths a little wider

so the water pours in
until I feel like I’m drowning.
On the bridge the tour bus waits

and someone waves, and calls down
It’s time, and the current keeps lifting
dirt from the bottom to cover the eggs.

Fisherman, by Kurt Brown

A man spends his whole life fishing in himself
for something grand. It’s like some lost lunker, big enough
to break all records. But he’s only heard rumors, myths,
vague promises of wonder. He’s only felt the shadow
of something enormous darken his life. Or has he?
Maybe it’s the shadow of other fish, greater than his,
the shadow of other men’s souls passing over him.
Each day he grabs his gear and makes his way
to the ocean. At least he’s sure of that: or is he? Is it the ocean
or the little puddle of his tears? Is this his dinghy
or the frayed boards of his ego, scoured by storm?
He shoves off, feeling the land fall away under his boots.
Soon he’s drifting under clouds, wind whispering blandishments
in his ears. It could be today: the water heaves
and settles like a chest. . . He’s not far out.
It’s all so pleasant, so comforting—the sunlight,
the waves. He’ll go back soon, thinking: “Maybe tonight.”
Night with its concealments, its shadow masking all other shadows.
Night with its privacies, its alluringly distant stars.

Let’s Get Out of Here, by Corey Zeller

The river is a fish
and my tongue
is white paper
you draw
your hand on
and the sounds
keys make
on the waist
of a janitor
in an empty building
on the night of your birth
when the moon was
a live bird pinned
to a girl’s chest
and the color
of a beat-up door
that hides a paint chipped
life where we lick the throats
of passing trains
and wear bright pills
over our faces
like ghost masks
and move the tiny ghosts
that live in us
like dominos.

Many-Roofed Building in Midnight, by Jane Hirshfield

I found myself
suddenly voluminous,
three-dimensioned,
a many-roofed building in moonlight.

Thought traversed
me as simply as moths might.
Feelings traversed me as fish.

I heard myself thinking,
It isn’t the piano, it isn’t the ears.

Then heard, too soon, the ordinary furnace,
the usual footsteps above me.

Washed my face again with hot water,
as I did when I was a child.