Today's poem is by Lucia Perillo

A Simple Campsong

In the days of yore, three handsome drunks
took me to sea until my jigging hook was swallowed.
I reeled its line around a plywood chock
until the big fish hovered at the ceiling of the water.

I know this sounds like a fable, so let it be a fable
in the rain where we hunched underneath our stupid hats.
We didn't have a gun, so one of the drunks leaned out
and drove a gaffing hook under its jaw bone.

A loud whump from the transom when the rope played out:
then the little boat stood on its hind end. We rose up
with the bench seats pinned behind our knees
and hung in the air until the boat sat down again.

And nobody's lungs were inundated by the sea
in this soft-core, cloud-upholstered version of the past.
Someone merely pulled the starter and we towed the fish to shore
where it sprawled on the wet sand, bigger than a woman.

I know a fable would have coughed up a pearl or a word
but the fish was a fish; lying there, not speaking.
Its lips did move in a mockery of speech,
its gills a set of louvers, opening and closing.

Then the drunks found sticks and I did too
and we brought them down on the shovel of its skull.
But the fish wouldn't die until I put some weight behind the stick,
until I jumped with my upswing, like a primitive.

Buh went the stick. It felt all right to be barbaric,
to be cut from the same cloth as the wilderness itself.
But soon a birding group appeared on the bluff
and stripped the teeth off all the gears inside their lungs.

The drunks were coming sober and the screaming made them look
down at their hands, streaked with red fish blood.
The birders wanted us to find a quicker way to kill the fish—
Okay you try, we said.

Then it drops like a curtain, the heavy velvet of dys-memory.
I guess the sandpipers wobbled in the tidepools in the rocks.
The birders withered back into the spaces in the brush.
And someone cut off the halibut's cheeks.

The reason why it's vague is: all I wanted was the drunks,
bunch of snaggle-toothed losers who lived in trailers in the woods.
In those days I was drawn to the wind-chapped hand.
Good Lord, how they stunk.

Question: how big does a stick have to be to be a club?
Answer: at least as big around as a small man's wrist.
Too big, and the club starts to turn into a log.
And the drunks start to stagger when they raise it for their blows.

So how far back for yore? First the story needs to skip
the part where the club has bits of brain stuck to the wood.
Instead cut to the evening when we chopped the fish in pieces
and ate them fried in butter that left a halo around our mouths.

Copyright © 2003 Lucia Perillo All rights reserved
from Crab Orchard Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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