Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Dead Whale, Montana de Oro

He held up a bait fish, the size of smelt,
showing how to hook it behind the skull 
so that it would keep swimming until something
gobbled it down. "They don’t feel nothin’,"

he insisted. I grabbed one from the bait pool, 
struggling to stick the hook in, the fish jerking
this way and that in my hand and releasing 
a faint, shrill scream as the barb entered
                                                                       Go on a different journey.
its brain. As I tossed my line into the sea,
the deckhand announced that he'd figured  
that two on this trip wouldn’t last, laughing
how he was wrong about one, the other curled up 

half-alive in the cabin on a cot under a blanket. 
“You know what? Never been wrong before,”
he smirked as he squinted at me, my Dad 
ignoring him. Suddenly a greenhorn reeled 

in a shark, and the deckhand shot it twice
in the head, but it kept flopping around,
so he heaved it over the side. One who kept 
drinking beer and barfing over the railing 
                                                                          Go on a different journey.
hooked a seagull, and the deckhand snorted 
as it hovered behind the ship like a kite. I
noticed a scar on the deckhand's forehead. 
“See this? I leaned over to pat a little girl
on the head, and she pulled out a gun 
and shot me, but I’m as hard-headed
as a shark. When I woke up, I asked 
what’d happened to her, and my friend 

told me that they killed her. Why did they
do that? She was only four years old!
She was a killer, he said. She’d do the same
to the next soldier. But you know what
                                                                   Take a different path.
was worse? A woman rushed up to me
and spit on me in the airport after
I made it home. They say the war’s 
almost over, but I say it’ll be over the day

fish stop feasting on each other."
He pulled open a burlap bag, where
a lingcod was swallowing a red snapper.
Then he coughed and howled with laughter.

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