It is so hard to let go of love,
unpeels more gut more quickly
than reel or reeler ever lost
in all those years of lazy inches
in and out:
winding in and playing out,
hardly fishing, rarely catching
from the deepness out of sight,
hardly ever losing . . .
Blisters lust into the greedy thumb.
the startled brake lets go.
It dives full length into the never,
finds the limit of its leash,
pounds against its half-round prison,
at end of end of rope -
Got you, shrieks the reel and reeler
cranking in the give and take.
The line is taut,
the weight upon it heavy,
and waiting . . .
. . .waiting for adrenaline:
against the angry, smoldering thumb.
Caught to catcher,
fish to fisher:
let me go!
It tries too hard to turn to something else: away.
Away and bottom still beyond the knot,
the creature climbs toward the light,
her leap, an alchemy:
silver unto gold.
crinkled all about.
Million mile amnesia.
a flash of tooth,
then placid lips close over any sign of youth . . .
. . . as if the fish had never been.
-the fisher wonders:
The line is limp
as if . . .
for all the years of it,
nothing at its other end.
A flash of recognition:
she leaps another time,
not knowing if what held her holds.
Silver fish scales golden ladder
a sunbeam at a time,
and all the rungs of memory -
breaks air an instant.
The line has held
and as she leaps, it claims her,
a thunder clap.
Arrested in her flight,
she drops deadweight into the bucket sea-
fish to air to gold to water,
Of the gold,
an afterglow centered in the thumb.
Did it happen?
Was she really there?
Air turns to air once more,
the fisherman to memory,
pig-a-back the job at hand,
one slender monofilament insisting: no!
and memory, another plastic,
refusing to let go.
my pretty lovely,
so flying and so softly spun,
you seemed the air to me.
So high and free,
so very near the sun,
my tears dissolve the earth’s connection.
The line my hands are holding:
to limit freedom at its height,
impossible without restraint-
the line between us,
subtle and so gossamer.
There, it glinted,
there! So very real.
Real . . .
The hook is realer.
Tangerine transfusion from the fastened lip,
bleeds unreckoned into the larger blue.
The sea - as wide as weakness -
sucks the strength without a hunger.
Tired, the hooked,
and tiring even more,
the line grows stronger,
shortening toward the bobber boat.
I’ve got her, cries the fisherman,
raping at dead weight,
dragging mystery toward the kitchen
-on his mind is steak.
Slaughter, separate from supper,
passion with a knife,
the knife . . .
. . . the knife is ready
held tight between the skinless thumb,
and vendetta fingers -
five Sicilian brothers
waiting for their sister to come home.
The other hand around the rod
is closing on the lover’s throat.
The rod’s erect,
the reel is angry.
Come, my dear, come, come.
She hears the music of the end,
the bowstring whine of gut
still lean and taut from her weight alone,
hears the rhythm of the reel
and tries to run once more
-provoking lust to snatch still harder-
but can’t . . .
. . . is free at last
surrendered with the last of blood:
quicksilver nearing zero-
and two dollars worth of ice.
(a virgin: never dead before)
betrayed and penetrated,
(it’s time now to give in, enjoy)
rests her weight upon the line,
toward the bottom of the boat.
The whore! I see her in the water!
She gave me quite a fight.
The captain, ready with the gaff,
the lover, in his rented swivel chair,
seize her from the water.
The maiden’s heartbeat
is faint and futile as a final cry of rape.
Her breath is fear, yet sounds like passion
at the very end.
Her swoon is now complete.
Her swain is prickled with his heat.
His blood pounds within his thumb.
is left alone with her.
He ponders . . .
. . . while he does,
she pales and sheds her rainbow.
Her eyes turn glassy from the air,
She’s turned to meat.
He lusts at memory for a moment,
then dries the little sweat
and goes forward for a beer,
and band aids.
The captain’s seen it all before,
surgically removes the hook
and tidies up the gear.
He and the mate carry her to the ice
and lay her out within the cold.
The mate disinfects the deck
with sea water and a stiff brush.
Returning with his second beer,
a badge of gauze and Vaseline upon his thumb,
the lover is confused.
The deck, shipshape,
of scales and blood
it all might not have happened.
Then there would be hope.
The mate calls him to the ice chest
for the viewing,
opens it . .
I’ve lost her. There she is.
The smell . . . it must wash off !
Time to go home.
The sea is empty.
It is over.
Copyright © Jack Scott