Night Fishing

Lines cast out across the water;
the boat trolls through the night.
Where I was going was as clear
as now – – across the next trough,
through the next crest.  The waves
and boat moving maniacally along:

the boat driven by a will, the waves
by the idiosyncrasies of the moon.
What catch is hauled up from
these murky depths?  Bits of historical
flotsam, jettisoned bits of culture:
ten score or more decades sampling

of what was said, centuries of gossip 
and soap opera arcana:  Did Abelard 
really love Heloise?  The snake bit 
Cleopatra where?  Or was that Rama
beset by snakes, then rescued by the word
of a monkey?  What did Hanuman say?

What words can throw the poison out?
For what are these lines set?  The truth?
Some kind of pat answer to chant over beads?
I wonder at the hooks that return empty.
The imagined beast nibbling delicately
about the barbed query – – Is this fate?

A gaping maw with agile lips sucking
my life away so subtly no bite marks show.
I shiver and stare into the maternal sea.
The waves lap the boat like a rock
incognizant of any motion or obstruction.
The boat hauls in its lines as the sun

waves another night away.  What is caught?
What remains in the sea?  The horrors
at hand are enough, yet one eye follows
the thin line stretching into the water
reaching out, like my hand held out,
for something other than what is here.


( from “115 Missing Days” Circa 1996)

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