Issue > Poetry
Max Heinegg

Max Heinegg

Max Heinegg lives in Medford, Massachusetts, where he teaches English in the public schools. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Crab Creek Review and the Columbia Poetry Review, among others. He is a singer/songwriter whose records can be found online.

Night Fishing

                    I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look.
                                   --Melville, Moby Dick

We'll know in ten minutes if the false moon
we submerge from the dock's edge in Pigeon Cove
will draw them in to hunt the way moonlight does,
& has through the ages, stars & moon sinking
through the waters' boundary to refract & mint
these night hunters the coins of their eyes.
If not, we'll depart Rockport for Magnolia,
but a fleet storms the dock, translucent darts
two fingers long, single fins for crowns.

Each sees the squid in his own way, Ahab's
doubloon pinned to the mast as a medal of the sun.
Micah sees a feast, but first distributes poles,
& orchestrates lines for his un-seasoned crew.
Everett, seven, is after the Kraken but drags the blue
net's webbing across the top of the water.

Ava sees it as a fearful loveliness, tiny ghosts
lifted from a darkness that inks her mother's dress.
Stella sees avoidance, furious at the squid
for not biting, she reels around the dock, jostling
Freddie who sees it as a conjuring but believes
in being in the prime position.
When Stella admits defeat, she does not sulk,
but takes the squid's milky mantle from the hooks
for others, pinching the boy cousins' jobs.

Over the blackening bucket the unhooking
is not grisly, the motion a swivel.
Calvin sees his skill as a mark of progress,
frees my four squid fluidly & calls out sup bruh,
to his uncle sipping lager, who returns the salute.

I sidle up to Wendy but she's after a catch.
I know as she courses, she plays a dark game
imagining a dorsal fin taking the water's pulse.

Fisher, four, sees it with his father's ease
& unhooks his own, & Phoebe, six, surveying
on the edge of the dock sees dozens careen
by like a bird that at any moment could choose one

fortune in this age to find the otherworldly
so close, where once we cast sights on the leviathan,
a brave voyage away. Now, at our fingers
the murky world unites beast & man, grappling
on the hooks we sink beneath the luminous
screen that reveals no frozen spaces, squid
bursting like synapses, finning like neurons,
swimming the vicious infinite in microcosm.

Above us, the Big Dipper's clarion,
& the pale school lingers on the trailing shadows.
Our bucket's half full, but it's past the hour
the youngest fray, so one last cast,
not for the squid Melville's Dagoo saw
monstrous on the surface, nor for the giant
that clamped down on Nemo's Nautilus,

but for another glimpse of this spectral navy,
passing silver through a cove near the ocean
where the great chain has fallen
& centuries slip between intricate links,
separation razed, great distances folded
for local boats held fast with small anchor

& I'd stay by that pale gathering to catch another,
not for greed or even the peace of fishing,
but for the reason I turn from my bed
to awaken my phone at night, to send my hook down
for another message, to test my line to see
if there's another tug, to pose another living
question surfacing to a captured insight
or newly beheld fear I recognize by the light
of where I stand, or stood,
to set the dark in motion & stare,
transfixed, the ocean come to me.

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