Best of the Net 2009  


My name meant sickle, dog's claw.
I tickled the fishies with my toggle paw.
I was a stickling sticker with an iron jaw:

I wiggled under their blubber, their muscle,
and took the first bite; I gnawed as I nestled
into their flesh; I didn't spit out the gristle.

I was the tackle that needs no bait on me.
My mickle tooth sufficed. While the sea-
beasts reared and rolled, I rankled like a flea.

A whale's no tricky catch, once moored.
But without a quick arm, a strong cord,
any spear is broken, sunk, or overboard.

That's when my adventure started, fast
in the fish: my last run, my last
kill: then began the course of rust

that only fishhooks and ship wrack
fathom, a life unrecked to me on deck,
a life of salt, wasting in the whale's taut back.

But it is beautiful here, though I erode;
I hear the chanteys of the whale-road;
the whale suckles me with his blood.

I skim the waves like an extra fin.
I'm an iron fish, a serf of Triton,
a barbed harp learning a deeper tune:

that of slow dying. When we emerge for air,
I like to glimpse the gulls. But of that far
world I once knew--when I was a shiny spur,

a wand with a star--I want no lubber's tale.
They can keep the force of gunwales and the sail:
true power lies in death, and in the whale.

- Melissa Range (from Memorious)