Posts Tagged ‘otolith’




The days lasted for years back then.

Summer was a lifetime.


He took me out on the lake in our boat

and when we had reached the deeper waters

he’d cut the motor and we’d set the anchor.


The waves made blue conversation with the hull.

There were weeds, I am sure. There always were,

in green profusion floating along the surface.


We would have dug for earthworms that morning

beneath a weed pile in the shade

of the weeping willow.

Now he pulled them out of the can

and guided my hands to string their thick,

pink bodies along the hooks.


We cast and sat. Perhaps we talked.

The red and white bobbers translated

what might be happening below.


We pulled up bluegills, crappies, sunfish,

and perch and threw the larger ones into the bucket

of lake water we used to keep them alive until supper.


Then I caught a drum, and my father’s eyes

glittered like sun on the swells. He pulled

out his knife and carved into the fish

just above the gills.


From the flesh, from the blood, from the death

he withdrew two flat white stone-like things—

otoliths, he said. They were strangely polished,

smooth and shiny, like pearls, like ivory.


He dropped them into my hand. I received them

as treasure, pronouncing the strange word

over and over. Otoliths. Otoliths.

I did not yet know that beautiful things

don’t last.


I held them in my hand the whole ride home.

They are gone, decades ago. What remains

is what I choose to remember—

the scent of the lake rising up. The

slapping of the waves. The diamonds

in my father’s eyes when he realized

he could share with me a secret

about beauty and its hiding places.


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