I worked on this piece for publication – after some back and forth it didn’t make it – no worries. But rather than trash it I figured I’d share it here.
Fish Food or Fugue in F minor
Time passes slowly when you’re stuck in a stream. And I am. Stuck. In mud. Up to my hips. Up to my waist—still sinking after all these years. I should have told somebody where I was going. I could have said, “I’ll be going north on State Highway such and such, turn left onto County Road X, I’ll be parked at the second bridge over Nameless Brook and I’ll be fishing upstream, if I’m not home by midnight send the search party.” Though I suppose it wouldn’t have been that easy—I didn’t really know where I was going until I got here.
It’s such a little stream, it’s amazing that it captured me in the first place and I can’t believe it’s held me for so long. I only meant to stop, have a look and move on. So I was looking out over a bridge rail and I saw a scarlet flank and a white-lined fin slide into the shadow of a ledge. I started to fish. I worked upstream and asked “What’s around the bend?” I asked that question more than once and went around the bend more than once—until I ended up here. Where the stream rushes into the opposite bank and the water carves out a deep and dark hidey-hole. Just the kind of place you want to swing a streamer. I stepped into the dead water on the inside of that bend—the place where the silt and mud and leaves settle out. I sunk to my ankles but I needed to wade out just a bit further to get the swing that I wanted. A few more steps and….
The raven stole my eyeballs. She flew to her nest on a rocky ledge not far away and she fed them to her two murderous ravenettes. They grew and fledged and now those shadowy pests hang with me. They visit in the evening to taunt me and to whisper to me what they’ve seen and heard and what they’ve remembered for me. They are my eyes and ears and memory—when your mind is gone, consumed by fish and streams, and your skull is full of water and swimming trout fry it’s hard to remember things without help.
The ravens fly into town and steal pages from books left unattended and they bring scraps of newspapers from the dump and read them to me. If I ask, they’ll fly into town and look into the windows of a certain house and tell me what they see. But my black-feathered flying eyes and ears and memories are unreliable. And it’s hard to know the truth of what they say. Sometimes I think it would be better if they’d leave me for good, let me go on without seeing and knowing and let me forget, let me sink into the mud, into the stream, become one with nature, and forget.
Along with the mud and the ravens the nibbling fish have done their job . They ate my heart and my mind and they hide in my skull and swim in and out of my eye sockets. There is a red spotted vermiculated trout swimming in my ribcage where my heart used to be. As I dwindled they grew from parr-marked fishlets to hook-jawed, black-mouthed monsters. I started out to catch them. And here I am—fish food.