Two Poems

by Jed Myers

That Beaten Eye

For miles along the Klutina River
before it gives itself up to the Copper,
here in July, thousands of men,
women, their young big and small,
grandparents, loners, campers and lodge guests,
all, toss their lures in the tumble,
silt-brown scallops of current and white frill
topping the shallow rocks, every hook
bouncing along the invisible stones
on the chance for a sockeye’s mouth. It’s elegant
carnage. The fish crowd
close to the sandy banks for the least
turbulence, practically under the sunburned
pilgrims’ noses. The irritant flash
and bump of the colored wool-tufted bright
red hooks, or the silver hooks tucked
under stars of wiggly plastic spikes,
or black hooks hidden in bunches of nylon
fiber, incite the sockeye
to bat these bothers aside, and they’re snagged,
legally, good as a bite.
Then, these sukai, Salish for fish
of fishes or red fish, are given
to fight once more for their chances, come
so close after thousands of miles, to die
in their final offering back to the river,
their progeny. Close now, after
the sea, the sea lion, orca, white-sided
dolphin, eagle, harbor seal, fishing
boats with great circling nets,
and up the first river, bear, more eagles,
earlier lures, all behind them,
they pulse the symmetrical muscles
their bodies are, up into the force
of the river, smelling the singular
scent of release and renewal, the call
to each of a certain stony shallow
somewhere in the great Northwest’s flow,
after years in the deep world, somehow
knowing they’re ready. They transmute
for the last ritual, the males’ bodies
reddening, their heads turning deeper
blue-green, their noses like hooks,
like the beaks of the impassioned demons
they are, the females’ egg sacs
fattened and ready to be squeezed out
on the right bed of pebbles, so near,
and here comes the river-long swarm
of human fishers, itching to reach
their limits, to kneel on the shore
behind their shining silver-pink catches
for pictures, their freezers ready
to pack away this red flesh for winter,
to reel in yarns they’ll tell other
humans who’ll listen. I’m with them
today, casting and dragging my lure
toward the shore over and over, hooking
my share. For the story? the flesh?
the picture? to spite the nature
taking me where it takes the sockeye?
I’m not sure.
Some are here,
whether any of us can say,
for the part called the fight, that chance
to know—for a few minutes
of sudden tugs and whirring of reels,
of leaps and pulls and weakenings,
somewhere along the way to joining
the flesh of the world, tied
by our tossed thin lines to something
of us in the rush of the river—something
our minds can’t catch, can’t hold,
something we warm-bloodeds lost
coming out of the cold that swims inside us
where we can’t cast. Here,
that we might without thought behold—
in that beaten eye we haul onto the sand
and stones of the banks, eye that holds
the same bottomless trust if you look
even moments after the creature’s clubbed
and no longer writhes, that flat
unknowing, unblinking eye
of the first and future world—life’s own
purpose, working its way now through us,
like a fierce fish through the current,
like a bare hook through a sockeye’s jaw.


Let’s Go In

Spring turned cold again, purple
and charcoal sheets of cloud drawn in
between ourselves and the sinking sun.

By light’s end, we were starless
and moonless, dim to each other
and underdressed. We stood there

imagining dinner, a candle’s glimmer.
But more than the night had fallen.
We had no appetite. For all the comfort,

shelter, or soft light we were after,
we’d caught the chill with no cure,
fullness had lost its promise,

and we knew we might as well loiter
out there, the wind spinning itself
into tighter spirals inside us.

A spring night, a cold front, it wasn’t
a judgment. But we were exposed,
each in a private storm’s eye, desire

shivering like a child watching
his house fly apart and fall into the sky.
What had we done? Had we sinned?

We’d been tender and wild. We’d driven
all the way to the shore for a beer
with a friend. We’d danced on the bed

while the war went on. Spring had ended
for now, not the war. Let’s go in I said.
Tomorrow, spring might begin again.

Read The Story Behind “Two Poems” by Jed Myers on our blog

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About Jed Myers

Jed Myers is a Philadelphian living in Seattle. Two of his poetry collections, The Nameless (Finishing Line Press) and Watching the Perseids (winner of the 2013 Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), are to be released in 2014. He won the 2012 Mary C. Mohr Editors’ Award offered by Southern Indiana Review, and received the 2013 Literal Latte Poetry Award. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod International Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Atlanta Review, Sanskrit, The Tusculum Review, and elsewhere.

Jed Myers

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