Fry Day

 

Skipping School

 

They wondered why I drank

the idiots

in their shrinking world

that always made sense

to them

but not to me

even as a small fry I'd slip out of the stream

and watch them swim along 

always in the same direction 

not even thinking about the sonar

of the pink gods with feet

in their mechanized floating machines

with their engines and their wheels 

their knives and crosses

I'd think to myself, we're sitting ducks

fish in a barrel

just waiting for the pink gods to pick us off

one by one

or in one apocalyptic haul

to sweep us all away

with the sharks and the barnacles

 

The only gods I ever respected were the pirates

with their honest code

of personal interest and dishonesty

no sermon or coat of arms 

or ladies with golden haloes

just black sails

get what you can

reap havoc and sow terror

like the razor-toothed shark 

 

Yes, I remember the pirates with their amber rum

barrels of the stuff

dark, light, sweet, sweeter

I was happy to drink with them

the ones that drowned and joined us in the coral reefs

we drank their golden rum, añejo, Señor Ron Ambar

we drank until there were no rules

about how fish were supposed to behave

about how much we could turn 

this way and that

about how much we could drink

and with whom

and about how we were supposed to sit

even though we couldn't sit

No backbone, sluggards! yelled out the headmaster

in the water-boarding school

where all my cousins sat

primly

taking the bait

which I saw from the pirate cove mark twain beneath

until the day I saw the end

of their days

 

The Unholy Haul

 

It was mid-morning

and the sun tilted down through the layers of waves

till it cast a multiple light on the coral shelf

where I was still drinking

after a heavy night with the betta fish

with their fancy fins and angry jaws

I was now entirely spent

but still drinking rum

long past ignoring the school bell 

(hooky, they called it)

I was looking at the refracting light

green, emerald, topaz

as it angled onto the rim of the shelf

as I sat there exhausted against the coral wall

looking out at the light and the current

when I felt it

the belt of angles shifted in one large movement

that you could only see if you were apart from it

inside Plato's cove, hungover

with your back against the wall

 

The water shook

but they didn't notice anything

they were in school

with their backs straight

reciting something about love

heterosexual love between fishes

and family values

when they all got swept up in a big net

 

The memory of it snaps something inside me

tears me apart 

makes me want to follow them

upward toward Heaven

the bright blue sky

into which the bubbles break

a martini surface of vodka

melon liqueur and blue curaçao

while beneath me swells a dark current of rum

and ahead of me lie the coral-white altars of cocaine

and I let the heavens be

 

I've given up twisting and shouting

I just let myself go

it's what they call drowning my sorrows —

but what could that possibly mean

when you're a fish?

 

The Drowning Fish

 

Drowning 

falling into the forbidden deep

the dirt highway of the crab

the way of the octopi

the pulsing jellyfish

here in the deep I let go of the dreams 

that were supposed to lift me up

the things I was supposed to see 

the impossible things

The Way of the Sky

the communal capitalized Dream

of how we'd all swim together 

for the rest of our after lives

ghost fishes

swimming in the same school

fish-bone skeletons

circling in the sky

 

Fins & Wings

 

All I remember now is the everlasting disappointment 

on the faces of my mother and father

with all their talk of The Fishermen and the Loaves

The Virgin and the Dove

The Way of the Fishes and Sky

The fins that were supposed to turn into wings

angel wings

never made any sense to me

because all I ever had were fins

and because of the fisherman

with their pointy hats and dusty sandals

who only cared about the souls 

of the humans

they rescued

The Saint  [Nicholas of Bari]  Saves a Boat from Shipwreck , Gentile da Fabriano, 1425 (Vatican Museum, photo RYC)

The Saint [Nicholas of Bari] Saves a Boat from Shipwreck, Gentile da Fabriano, 1425 (Vatican Museum, photo RYC)

they said nothing about the fish themselves

unlike good old Laozi

who wrote that Fishes should not be taken from the deep

or Zhuangzi, who told his companion, You are not I.

How do you know that I do not know

what constitutes the enjoyment of fishes?

At least they gave us the time of day

and we weren't just monsters — or dinner — in their eyes

(not that they were in general are any kinder to fish)

 

Bad Friday

 

Even when I was a tadpole swimming in the Sunday school

all they talked about were the things that were happening up there 

somewhere

up there in the air

above the air that we could see

surrealistically from the depths of the sea

They were always talking about the most famous Fisherman of them all

the one who could walk on top of the water

but never swam in it

and if He did come down

it was to help some guy called Jonah

to escape the monsters (that was us) of the sea

Jonah in the Sea-Monster's Jaws , from a sarcophagus lid of unknown provenance, c. 300-325 AD, Vatican Museum (Photo RYC)

Jonah in the Sea-Monster's Jaws, from a sarcophagus lid of unknown provenance, c. 300-325 AD, Vatican Museum (Photo RYC)

Or he only cared about the little children

who would come to him

and sit quietly 

and listen to his sermon

on a dry mountain

in a school on sun day

 

Down here in the depths of the water

I drink

by the light of the moon

and think to myself, to the Fisherman

fish were really people

or, worse, a sacred meal

Sunday mass, Good Friday

fish on Friday

fly fishing

deep sea fishing

fry day

It was all up in the clouds

there was no reality to it

fish that fly

but how could they fly when their fins were broken

clubbed

their bodies hauled up from the deep

in a net

if they were lucky

or with an iron hook through their lips

when all they were doing was swimming around

looking at the white incandescent coral reefs

bleached by the noxious chemicals

that slipped from the mechanical gills

and rudder tails

of the hungry gods?

 

My comrades have all been swept up from the deep

and broken on a wooden table

a wooden altar six feet long

brass handled

and they called it a sacred meal

fish and chips

battered

 

One more shot, bartender

 

——-

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