I met a fisherman today
at the coffee house.
He was thirty, maybe,
had an unkempt beard
blue eyes, and a silver ear ring.
He was looking at photos of
a boat and I asked if I could see.
"We came back," he said,
"with ten thousand pounds of crab,
--beginning of the season is always best."
His hands were scarred and his
back was straight and
his face was worn with weather and worry.
I said, "I thought there was a storm at the coast
this week." and he said, "Most of the bars were closed but
we went out over one that wasn't and
it was rough
but the sea beyond that was smooth as glass."
He drew in a slow breath and closed his eyes.
I asked him if
he liked the sea best
in daytime or night and
"I like the night the best."
And I said, "Me, too," and he said, "In Alaska, where I used to fish,
the nights went on for days on end," and I knew exactly
what he meant, though I have never fished or been there.
He said, "I brought my kids a cooler full of crabs," and
I tried to imagine what it was like
to see your father coming and to know he was leaving again
before dawn, and that nothing in the house would smell like him when he was gone.
And you cracked the crab, with big sheets of the Tillamook Times
laid out on the kitchen table, and you all talked and laughed
and ate as much as you wanted and your dad
talked about how there were not as many kinds of fish these days
but that the sea itself was was the most beautiful thing,
as if the sky had fallen into water and begun to breathe
and you thought to yourself, "I'll probably be a fisherman when I grow up."
And you saw his steady, kind gaze and you ate the soft, white crab
and you knew that even though he would be gone in the morning,
he meant to love you with those tall, rickety towers of crab bodies
for which he traded his life.
Your small, pale hands cracked the crab, and you noticed the tiny
brown eyes and the delicate hairs along the shell's edge and you wondered
what the crab ate and if the crab had a family. And you fell asleep at the table
and your mother carried you to bed and in the morning, the bedroom window was open
and you could smell the salty wind and
your father was gone.