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.”