The Fish

". . . tomorrow I look forward to a greater harvest."
     —Charles Darwin, 1832

Month after dry month, then suddenly
a brief rain has delivered to the fractured hillsides
a haze of grass. So sparse it might be
a figment of the heart. Yet its path
on the outstretched hand is true—brush and retreat—
like the breaths of a spaniel.

There are buried in the decks of certain ships
melon-sized prisms of glass, dangling their apices
to the cabins below. Through
their forked, pyramidic ziggings, daylight
is offered to the mess tables, to the tinware,
the gun-gray curlings of salt-tongue.
Not rainbowed at all, the light
approaches the face of each sailor
in segments, like the light in a spine of
train car windows. Then fuses, of course, when it
marries the retina, its chopped evolution

lost in the stasis of the visible.
We turn homeward soon. I remember
the seam lines of southern constellations, and the twin
tornadoes of a waterspout: one funnel
of wind reaching down from a cloud,
one funnel of sea reaching upward. They met
with the waist of an hourglass—in perfect reflection,
as we, through the Archer, the Scorpion, the Painter,
call forth from the evening some
celestial repetition of our shared churnings.

We shattered the spout
with shotguns that kicked like the guns of my childhood
when leaves were a prune-mulch and my sisters
stood at the rim of the orchard.
Katty. Caroline. Susan. Marianne.
In the temperate wind, their dresses and sashes,
the variegated strands of their hair, were
the nothing of wood smoke. Steam.

I cannot foretell our conclusion.

But once, through a pleat-work of waves,
I watched as a cormorant caught and released
a single fish. Eight times. Trapped and released.
Diving into an absence, the fish
re-entered my vision in segments, arcing
through the pivot of the bird's beak. Magnificent,
I thought, each singular visit, each
chattering half-step from the sea.

From The Ghost Trio by Linda Bierds (Henry Holt and Company, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Linda Bierds. Appears courtesy of the author.