Pray tell, how do you do it? How shake Loose the shackles of lowly carphood And lift without rising from the bottom Transformed, sudden pond royalty Doted upon with handfuls of fish chow And dim admiration here at the public Gardens, a regal orange that would Never survive in the long-lost wild, The trailing sheepish sweeping tail And overwrought fins, inbred for court With bulbous eyes rampant as jewels, Escaping the bland camouflage brown From which your race was spawned, Poor-colored, mottled to hide among Clotted leaves, left alone to graze Through cast-off cloud reflections And rotted bits of murk and marl Sifting through the garbage of salvation Elevated here to true sainthood, crazy Overblown goldfish, shingle-sided And thus scaled for eternity, My fish, my people, my carp.
Steelhead at Lenore, Idaho
A hen, spawned out, all of forty inches dying for months now, her adipose fin intact, wild fish bearing a lucid stripe of sunburst red from tail to gaping chin, sea-running rainbow trout come clear up the Columbia, past the Snake’s dams, now twenty miles up the Clearwater holding in a back channel just off the bank, rotting fish trailing pale epaulets of flesh, forehead battered, eyes gone stony gray adrift where bear and cougar hunt the night. Upriver, two men fish from the bridge. She’s spent, stone blind, but sweeps out midstream at the quiver of my step on shore.
When they first tumbled from the grass to drop face-first into the creek behind my house they were nine and I knew the coyotes would likely pick off a couple of those golden fuzzball Charlie Chaplins stumbling until the miraculous splash that spared them as forever graceful: nine goslings under the hard beak of a parent already in the stream, sweeping them all back to shore with the shove of a wing. Two days later, seven, swimming strong, and now, a week in, the remaining four work their way up the evening creek, driving against the current, against the other five.
Dennis Held lives in a neighborhood called Vinegar Flats along Latah Creek in Spokane, Washington. He has published two books of poetry: Betting on the Night and Ourself.