Category Archives: NaPoWriMo

Me, Myself, and Ichthyology

Over dinner, Nicole asked me “So,
what the heck is poetic about studying fish?”

And no sooner had I opened my mouth to reply,
when a movement hooked my attention
down to her glass of coke.
A sea horse, Hippocampus fuscus,
blinked at me between icebergs and carbonation, floating
through a galaxy of bubbles previously sworn inhospitable.

I tried to ignore it, fish wasn’t on the menu, and I was thinking
of the perils of a first date gone terribly wrong:
Nicole choking on a somewhat saltier drink than she had ordered.

And at that moment, a bang of thunder fills the restaurant
like six year-olds squeezing the bubble wrap
that is the fabric of space-time,
and all over, fish appear and fall.
A calico rockfish into one lady’s steak pizzaola,
a kawakawa knocking off her man’s toupee.

And as the fishfall turned from a drizzle to a summer storm,
waitresses and busboys twirl their umbrellas from who-knows-where,
and I swear I could hear a collective chim-chim-cheree,
but believe me: I found no part of this magical.
That was when I decided I wasn’t leaving a tip.

Flicking a goldfish out of her hair,
I grabbed Nicole’s hand. We dove through the front window
into the street, throwing a fifty over my shoulder
with the urgency of a hand grenade. And I would have ducked.
I should have looked away, but I was reeled in to the scene.

Right at that moment, Ahab tumbled out of the bathroom,
I crap you not, pegleg and spear and crazy eyes
and he was screaming something fierce. When he hurled
a harpoon into the kitchen, that’s when the whale
breached the wall; the air shuddered like a depth charge.

That was when I turned to Nicole, and I answered

There is absolutely nothing poetic about fish.”


Stay quiet when she says,
“my God, I think I know him.”
After all, she’s from this town.
It’s to be expected.

And then, when she whispers,
almost conspiratorially,
“that’s my Animal Behavior professor,”
simply nod assent.

The rest of the table will try to joke
about what one says to a professor
when he’s sighted off-campus, you know,
when his behavior can be observed
in the confines of his natural environment.

Be a gentleman. Keep your eyes down
and smile to yourself.

But when she waves him over, and says to him,
“I really didn’t know how to approach you
in a manner befitting your subject.”

that’s when you turn to him and say,
“I thought it’d be a good idea
if she went over and sniffed your butt.

By the way, I’m Ben.”