Today's poem is by Jynne Dilling Martin

Always Throw the First Fish Back

The world resembles a phantom vessel destined
to sail but never reach port. The kidnapping victim

bound to a sawmill tries to loosen the ropes in vain
as electric sparks shower down, unsure if help is on the way.

Later in life he will apprentice with a sailor and learn
to pull apart every knot. I am not afraid of shackles

but dread the traps that precede them: the decoy duck,
the pitfall, the plainclothes officer posing as a friend.

Once imprisoned you can relax into your chains,
befriend the rats who will elect you mayor,

you will have time to entertain their many complaints,
to feel the stones beneath you separately, round or pointed,

to chalk mark each day, but the difficult trick is to die
without thinking of betrayal, the quicksand under the bed.

If you can learn not to see all nets as snares, you can stroll
freely about the ship deck and say, this is the silver mist

hemming us in, there is the anchor ready to drop,
these are the rats who will flee if they sense we are sinking.

Copyright © 2014 Jynne Dilling Martin All rights reserved
from We Mammals in Hospitable Times
Carnegie Mellon University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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