December 27, 2016

Susan Elbe

REELING IN A SKATE ON KACHEMAK BAY, ALASKA

We drop bait and jig down eighteen fathoms,
trolling bottom for the halibut they say
are white and big as jib sails full of wind.

We drift this way all morning and I watch the men
pull up 30-pounders and sometimes
scaly Irish Lords, lustered as fool’s gold.

Drugged by the surprising warmth of this
ellipsed and argent Arctic light, I am amazed
when my line drags taut and in my hands

the heavy rod dips like a heron bends to drink.
I reel and reel, pulling up my own weight,
heavy as wet canvas. The men say to go slowly,

it will roll in fear and dive from foreign sun—
this fish has never seen the light. But who knows
what I’ve snagged from sodden sleep,

what blunt-eyed creature I haul out of darkness,
a ghostly harbinger that wavers toward me
like an insubstantial scrap of paper,

becoming larger as it nears. Too tired to resist
the last few feet it seems to help,
ascending easily, entranced by this bright world.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001
Tribute to Boomer Girls

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Susan Elbe: “For me, writing poems has always been as much a spiritual practice as it has been a source of great pleasure. In answer the the question, ‘Where is the soul?’ Gary Zukav replied that the real question is, ‘Where isn’t the soul?’ Writing poems is for me the process of discovering and articulating the soul in all its wonderful shapes. It is the process that nurtures, sustains, and teaches me.” (link)