Largemouth Bass

 

She strikes!

 

She is betrayed.

 

The minnow is on their side.

 

The minnow is a puppet

On a string

From the heavens.

 

And will not let go.

 

She is outraged.

 

She will fight!

 

She bolts

For the surface

 

And explodes into the Empyrean,

 

A thrashing leap

Shimmering silver-green

In the midday sun.

 

And the maw is agape,

The unfearing eye

Confronting your own

In the far-off rowboat.

 

So these are the gods.

I will swallow them too.

 

She plunges deep,

 

Ecstatic

With gratitude:

 

She’ll drag all the heavens,

 

The whole puppet theater,

 

Day and night,

 

Into the lakewater.

 

Then, Dogs and Bears

In her belly,

 

She’ll die choking

On the full moon.

 

Another leap!

 

Head-over-tail,

 

Just to prove

That she is a bass,

 

And you—

You are merely a god.

 

And when at last

She’s wrest to the boat

 

She has only conceded

Exhaustion,

 

And you grasp her

By the lower lip

And raise her with a curl—

 

Four pounds at least,

This coldblooded monster,

 

And such a marvel of design.

 

The perfection of violence

In this magnificent predator!

 

The grace and economy

Of her lines;

 

The cold hungering power

Of her suspended bulk.

 

When we praise the Creator,

This is what we praise:

 

Her gleaming armor

Of green-black scales,

 

Her bulging ivory belly,

 

The eye of black agate

That will never concede one tear

To the cosmos,

 

And the clean, spacious gape

Of the maw,

 

The Void

 

Of all she pursued

And devoured

And made into muscle—

 

Knife open her gullet

And you’d find the shiner

And crayfish and frog

 

That could never suffice.

 

But you leave her intact,

 

Unhook the Rapala

That taught her nothing,

 

And lower her

Back to the water,

 

Where with a stir of the tail

 

She darts

For the depths

 

And her pride of black bass

Prowling the underworld.

 

And she’ll arrive

Victorious,

 

Triumphant.

 

For you think

She was mastered?

 

You think she was added

To your virtual keel?

 

You dare to believe

She’s a fish you caught?

 

Don’t fool yourself,

 

 Jonah.

 

You’re on your way to Nineveh.

 

She swallowed you whole.

 

¨