Poetry: “Bread and Fishooks” by Derrick Austin


The pond out back is a ring of black glass;

I feed catfish with stale bread. From the wharf,

brown whiskers burst from the mirror.

As if I worked magic, they clapped their jaws.

Send out your bread upon the waters,

for after many days you will get it back,

my mantra. Jasmine unclench

scented palms, glimmer,

then bud in the same dense soil;

isolation opens its shutters to me again—

we repeat ourselves to escape time,

failing each time to claim endurance,

like the catfish on the outskirts of this frenzy,

exiles knowing change is the only singularity.

Their muscled bodies whack

the wooden pier, I shiver—

old grubbers clamor in the glass.

In prehistory, they must have been luminous

and smooth, living water; now,

thin gobbling lips and war wounds,

hooks on gills and mouths,

addicting as the idea of love.

My lover worms an arm around me

and licks the remains off my fingers like an animal

nursing its wound, or a man

savoring bread, saying, let’s go back

to bed and be still—the one thing

we’ll be utterly unable to do.