Wednesday, January 14, 2009


On a pier in Durban on a windy night a man hooks a shark. It is dark on the boardwalk despite the festival lights on the beach and the cherry glow of first cigarettes and new love.

The fisherman is Indian, and exclaims in a fevered pitch to no soul in particular that this is the biggest of his life. I look into his eyes and he into mine and then to his observing young son and see a stranger helplessness in this man and know a hunger in the other one.

well worn rod and reel
father and son cut bait
fishing for supper

"He's so strong" he calls out, face to the wind, the dizzying waves crashing below
against piers
against posts
against pilings
of our common drama...

"Towards thee I roll."

Minutes drag on. An hour. The man tires. The son's eyes bore holes through shaking arms and straining line. Over and over with desperation and an ironic lilt come the words "Oh my God." "Oh my God!" punctuated by the reel's siren song. At the first exclaimed, now as a sob. At first astonished, now as if sentenced.

a leviathan
lurking beneath sunlight
steals the bait

Slowly he is gaining the beach, inching along the boardwalk, yet the waves grow larger in shore and the arms weaken as the shark, relentless, but neither panicked
nor resigned, fights, fights, fights.

life feeds on life
embraced by larger power

In the waves now
near the shore
a surge
a roar
of desperation
of fearful anxiety
of wide-eyed wonder
of ambivalent wind
of the dawning
of impending doom

"Oh my God, no."


A singing reel
an audible snap
a limp strand
a fractured monofilament
a deflating father
a collapsing pedestal
a lost hero
a wizened son
and wordless exchanges
sobs of emptiness
and despair.


K.Lawson Gilbert said...

My heart started to race! Well done. You created such a vivid and lively image! The one that got away....that last stanza says it all!

paisley said...

i cannot help but think of spencer tracy in the old man and the sea where he fights all night and day with a fish and by the time he has pulled it in it is useless... this was really well written,, full and voluptuous with emotion and deep held breaths.....

Russell Ragsdale said...

That was fabulous! The shark and I were both hooked. It got away.