Swerve by John Estes


John Estes has a formidable sense of the music of poetry, a command of its resources so certain that he can play and display his verbal gifts with, when he wishes, a headlong dexterity.

—C.K. Williams

The Fish Turned Toward Shore

          The fish turned toward shore. –Jaws

The fish turned toward shore
     and in its fishy way: Harrumph. So that's the deep,
a hollow throbbing in the ear tube
and tribulating rills along the lateral line. What
     is heard, or sensed there—what others
call the deep's deep, or with a flourish the deepening deep—
is not the place imagined but a little shift
     in pressure, a slipping out of work boots into
house shoes so far gone unshifted. Not that a fish
any more than any creature, minds being lied to;
     not that on the belief-level of the ear stone
it didn't comprehend how, beneath the weight
of all that water, the situation couldn't help but get
     out of hand. Just that it, maybe more than
other creatures, learns by habit to trade on the side
of silence, and isn't prepared for the kind surprise
     of shallows which—maybe by its shoaling, maybe
its kelpy trusses or its equalizing zeal—cannot
help but be mistaken, on occasion, as having uttered
     Fish turn toward the shore.

All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

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