Portrait of Us with Two Fish

(for John)

You hold the snook in both hands, its gills fluttering
As it fails to breathe the toxic sunlight.
You show me because it’s a thing I’ve never seen:
Buttercream pelvic fin, dull silver belly,
Black horizon-line like a child would make
Running down an upstairs hall with a marker.
You cradle your catch into the water again,
Steady it until it flicks its tail-fin,
Signaling its eagerness to swim away.

An hour later you bring in a bonito, show me —
With just one hand this time —
Blurred stripes like rain-streaks
On a sooty window, then set it free as well.
You fire the engine and turn us
Toward the lambent orange sunset,
Run us out further from shore.


This is an exercise poem; the prompt was to write a self-portrait poem under a set of very specific rules. I used some of the rules, and the poem took off on its own as the list of required words triggered memories of John showing me fish he caught and released.


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