"I'll just steer south and west," he said. "A man is never lost at sea and it is a long island."
It was on the third turn that he saw the fish first.
He saw him first as a dark shadow that took so long to pass under the boat that he could not believe its length.
"No," he said. "He can't be that big."
But he was that big and at the end of this circle he came to the surface only thirty yards away and the man saw his tail out of water. It was higher than a big scythe blade and a very pale lavender above the dark blue water. It raked back and as the fish swam just below the surface the old man could see his huge bulk and the purple stripes that banded him. His dorsal fin was down and his huge pectorals were spread wide.
On this circle the old man could see the fish's eye and the two gray sucking fish that swam around him. Sometimes they attached themselves to him. Sometimes they darted off. Sometimes they would swim easily in his shadow. They were each over three feet long and when they swam fast they lashed their whole bodies like eels.
The old man was sweating now but from something else besides the sun. On each calm placid turn the fish made he was gaining line and he was sure that in two turns more he would have a chance to get the harpoon in.
But I must get him close, close, close, he thought. I mustn't try for the head. I must get the heart.
My daughter saw it first,
tucked under the garage eave
like an abandoned hat or trapped
tumbleweed, a jumbled braid
of grass, twig, leaf,
detritus of last autumn's letting go,
sculpted with beak, claw
into a soup bowl, deep with down and dung.
I stepped closer, inspected it, wondered
what else made up the sinew
and rib of its creation. Maybe
a Tootsie Roll wrapper from July 4,
brown, white, sweet-smelling.
A blade of blue or silver Christmas
garland, flashing in the sun
like Tiffany glass. Mud made
by my son in August
when he drowned the pumpkins in the garden.
Ribbon frayed from my daughter's
ballet shoe, pink and slick
as a hummingbird tongue.
All the lost and forgotten
twisted into the DNA of spring,
something new, green.
On this evening of letting go,
I feel like a robin, gathering
shards of you from my backyard.
The root of your voice. Hay
of your hair. Thistle of the last
joke you told, the one
about the spark plug and bartender.
I try to stitch these elements together,
bring breath back to your lungs
one final moment so I can
hold your hand maybe,
feed you one more fork
of pumpkin pie.
Tonight, when I sleep,
I will see you hatch, break
open, shake off your lake-
blue shell. You crawl to the lip
of the nest, spread your wings,
then launch yourself
into the bright palm of heaven.