King Opah


King Opah, Moonfish, Lampris Regius, I hope your life,

Before drifting solo up some immense Pacific seamount

In search of squid or other of your own nourishment you

Were hooked by a curious entrepreneurial longline,

Was as good as the dark, dense orange steak

The expert butcher cut from behind your head

Suggested it must have been, that your silver flanks,

That your steely, dark blue dorsal skin or scales

Sporting irregular rows of big white spots

And your orange or crimson fins all navigated

Midnights of fantastic bathypelagic spawning,

That your large eyes circled with gold, vermilion jaw line,

And the thick, rich oily fat beneath your 200-pound iridescence

Quivered with sweet salt as you conducted your pectoral fins

Through oceanodromous wanderings so rarely seen.


Harmless to us as squid were harmless to you, you took the bait

The way we take the bait of living,

A few hours before I seared two pounds of you at dusk,

Working carefully above a small, glowing pyramid of charcoal

As breakers murmured in the sandy distance

And breezes rustled the palms above your vanishing.

Through you, with you came your life and other life and more than life,

Reality and your unsheathing from it

Into a greater wilderness all held on the palate for a moment,

Lingering for an hour the way words linger.

Unmarked by any stone, forgotten unless I make these words

As strong as stone and then eventually forgotten anyways

In the way everything will be forgotten, even stones,

O Opah that I nonetheless remember,

You haunt me with the possibility of joy,

No, the reality of vitality, and I thank you,

I thanked you then and thank you now,

Loving if not worshipping everything

You were then and now are not.


O Opah, deep, quiet, darker than midnight, secret,

Illuminated, open, succulent, destroyed in joy by art,

Now merely a ghost or part of memory, listen:

The embers down the beach were flickering back at the stars,

And off in the distance a small group of us was laughing

And talking and praising bread and wine and you,

And enjoying the ocean whispers and each other and the night.

It seemed to go on forever, as a diamond might,

But warm, a loving, mortal crystal, flickering, flickering.

Opah, O King Opah, thank you, thank you, thank you.