By Jonathan K. Rice
Cigarettes glow orange on cheeks
of patient ruddy faces.
The odor of strip bait and shrimp fills the air.
Tackle boxes, buckets and coolers
line weathered planks.
Lights on fishing boats dot the ocean
as darkness falls. Lanterns and flashlights
on the pier give shadowy shapes
to anglers casting their lines upon the water.
Drag of spinning reels set silent
ready for the tug, pull and fight
of a good-size fish.
Some fishermen armed with heavy line
and oversized lures try for tarpon or barracuda,
while some use chunks of meat, hoping for a shark,
ignoring “No Shark Fishing” signs.
Sea gulls wait on the beach like onlookers
as the tide eases out. Before long I got one!
is heard down the pier. A man pulls in a croaker.
His friend grabs it with a gloved hand,
freeing the hook and dropping it in a bucket.
Another man spits tobacco at the water,
yanking up a blowfish. He cusses, laughs,
throws it back. I quietly wait for a tug on my line
as an old man beside me whispers I think I got something.
He’s slowly reels it in, lifts it from the water,
says what the hell is that?
I tell him it’s an octopus.
He doesn’t know what to do.
I reach for his catch.
I gently take the octopus in one hand.
Its body is about as big as my fist.
Tentacles wrap around my arm,
suction cups hug my wrist.
I carefully try to remove the hook,
its beak mouthing my palm,
when unexpectedly a tentacle comes off.
The old man groans at its loss.
I assure him one will grow back.
He says he’s had enough
and packs up his gear.
I loosen the tentacles.
A squirt of ink runs down my arm,
as I release the octopus
to the water below.
About the Author: Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015), Ukulele and Other Poems (2006) and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also a visual artist. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications, including Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Diaphanous, Empty Mirror, Gargoyle, Inflectionist Review, Levure Litteraire, The Main Street Rag, Wild Goose Poetry Review and the anthologies, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.