Size / / /

Every now and then

one comes up in the net.

Usually, they are long dead,

though a few show some flicker of life,

enough to glare at us,

gnashing their teeth

till the ropes are frayed

before they give up the ghost

or whatever it is that possesses them.

Sometimes I think perhaps they are

victims themselves,

caught under bridges near the sea

by a sudden outtake of tide,

pulled from their moorings by the moon

and swept out before they can tempt

any passerby into rescuing them.

Or maybe they have merely taken

unreasonable risks,

wading out to sea to lure lifeguards

into returning them to land,

hoping to bite any samaritans

all the way back

to show their delight at being rescued.

Then, in the midst of pretending to drown,

they discover they really are drowning,

no rescue in sight.

Still, none of us really knows

how they get into the nets,

replacing the usual mermaid or sea serpent.

And we'd really rather have

the anticipated wonders.

Sometimes they damage the nets so much

even the sea serpents can slip through,

leaving us to hold up spread hands impotently

to signify the one that got away.

From the shore,

our wives salute us back

with empty kitchen pans.

Duane Ackerson's poetry has appeared in Rolling Stone, Yankee, Prairie Schooner, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Cloudbank, alba, Starline, Dreams & Nightmares, and several hundred other places. He has won two Rhysling awards and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Salem, Oregon. You can find more of his work in our archives.
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