Where the river still carries the ocean’s salt,
she often races to the last inland point
tasting of the mineral mouths of stillborns.
On edge, she is ever on the banks of river—
river bucking her tides, ocean betokening
her second nature as it takes its course.
How they wear one another—
wearing out farewells and welcomes
of in- and out-going tides, undercutting
the currents as cuts in the river grow
more acutely angled and waters churn the silt
of her footprints in the bed. She releases
into feeder streams pretty Thumbelina fishes
engorged to monstrous on the last
of the indigenes. She’s at sea,
a loss. The phases of the moon
never cease to faze her, no matter the tilt
of the globe, its break-neck spin.
Like nervous systems
is true, a syn-
aptic need of both
hunter & hunted,
teller & told,
geld & gild.
Bit by bit
we brand &
ornament & out-
with fierce tokens
hoof, tusk, hide…
What have we left
but weaknesses to burn?
Outfitting the barque with tackle
and bait, day’s end is a lark
to the nightfisher—bitch sprung loose
from the iron spit, the short chain of day.
Moon-slick riptides usher her deep
as night claims its stake in the flesh,
the spirit. Come midnight, stark dorsal fins
resurface as they do, arcing in graceful
counterpoint to the shark-attack sound-
tracks looping through her landlocked
skull. Hermit crabs on the shore meanwhile
dishevel the tidal grit. For lines tangled,
miscast, for the inevitable losses of lure,
at least she doesn’t blame the wind.
The strands of every fish tale she comes to tell
sinew the nerve it takes to hook,
to haul from some dim fathom
then to gut, her ravening game.
Jo Ann Clark’s poems and translations have appeared in many journals, including the Boston Review, Colorado Review, New Republic, Hunger Mountain, Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, and the Western Humanities Review. Her first book, 1001 Facts of Prehistoric Life, is forthcoming in 2014 from Black Lawrence Press. She is Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, in Sleepy Hollow, New York.