A one hook night

Awakened by sky-creeping, light peeping moon,

I’m drawn once more to my meal gathering mode.

By hunger, but more by desire to roam

I serenely

savor my before napping intention,

and devise my flight from nest.

Wind cycled about predictably today–

East to west. Stars of Jebro rose overhead

by sunrise – one sure sign his season will be

passing backward.

Time when sun cycles in north sky over.

Time for Kapilōñ to blow.

High-tide peaked at dusk. Lagoon waves pounded shore

eating into this stony beach below me.

Here I slept before my now coal-less fire-pit.


I discern them stumbling broken against

distant low-tided corals.

I absorbed these ceaseless wet lagoon-ward sounds

of shoreline changing in-surging waves below

these now dry sounds of swaying coconut palm’s

rippling, rustling

above my tattered, thatched, lean-to roof that

echoes wind-torn tussling.

Sounds of shallow shoaling waves at islet’s end —

my shredding coconut husk to tinder my

exploding sulfur match that’s light ignites

up-swirling smoke

from today’s copra remnants that smolder

about hearth’s sunken barrel.

You stood by for untold seasons wet and dry

collecting raindrops that wandered down from sky.

When your side rusted out I cut you in two.

You serve me still.

Your rusty rim supports two bars burnt black.

Smoke swirls at Kapilōñ’s draft.

Yes, he gusts less fiercely now that tide is out.

His pace slackened at her predictive retreat.

That black smoke gives shape to his meanderings.

Meantime he holds

back attack till returning tide abides

his loud counter-cyclic squalls.

I drop dried coconut shells atop such flux.

Acrid smoke curls carelessly to smart my eyes.

I escape its choke by turning tearing face


back to Kapilōñ’s salty sky, and drink

his fresh, ever-present breath.

Impressed am I, by this contrariness I

find — the negative perfectness of this time.

This converse, mysterious westerly-ness

now befalling

between summer’s doldrum calm and winter’s

dry easterly sun-storm sky.

As though come Kapilōñ was a season too –

some contrary spirit who yearly arrives

to ravage the calm of summer’s westward flow.

up-churning the

sea momentarily upon itself

before winter’s sure return.

His recent breath now bellows shell’s bursting flame.

As ocean’s reef now lies to lee perfectly

sheltered from his storm – it’s time to cane-pole stroll.


I begin by turning my back to flame

to warm chilled bone of my soul.

First, I tare midrib from coconut leaf thatch.

I dip its end into nearly empty well 

of kerosene lamp. Then touch it to fire’s flame.

Abruptly burst!

I save my matches for another day.

I raise its grey smoky glass.

I shield quickly failing flame with outstretched hand

I lite wick, close globe of wind protected light

that’s left behind me now as I step outside.

I sis the ledge

of battered stones that line the length of shore,

and mark recent, highest tide.

Where but hours before waves thumped and sucked up

the islets base to form this elongated,

smoothly created crater of washed up stones.

Now exposing

dead yet coral grasping roots of kōņņat

And coconut all down shore.

I reach before me kōņņat tree. I remove

cane pole from tight branches where it’s liked to keep.

I disturb the roost of flapping crowing mate.


Confused by cloud-blotched light of risen moon

“Shut-up friend! Squat back to sleep!”

Clouds pass from between moon and me to now allow

its light to shine finger’s path to end of line’s

transparent monofilament trap of death —

twenty-pound test —

no less. I pinch end of hook-less line and

rest again before my flight.

Tie line to looped end of wire. Thread eye of one

small but strong steel hook. Twisting wire back around

itself, making hangman’s noose where fatal hook

securely swings.

I ponder should I make another? No.

This shall be a one hook night!

Fire flickers back to smoke from yet unflared shell.

It cries and chokes for air in uprising heat.

I knock it to side with stick where it flares there


Place battered teapot atop red embers.

Pregnant moments slowly glow

beneath its dented, smoke-blackened dignity.

As the cycle proceeds – tide recedes — earth turns

moon appears to stream between the clouds, yet climbs

relentlessly —

ineluctably churning big and small

even this soul within me.

You break your silence hissing steam. I stick-lift

your hot wire handle, setting your butt aside.

Stick-remove your blackened, aluminum lid.

Now sparingly

sprinkle loose tea inside to steep its brew.

Rest anew before we pour.

Tentative slurping of hot tea from glass jar.

I am spirit. Only I can know that I

will one day die. Only I remember all

that passed within.

Know of things not of this world but beyond —

I have soul, so I am I.

Who but I can hear the ocean’s lonely sigh

upon rolling hundreds of miles from east to west —

She kisses her lover’s reef upon her crest

then protrudes her

self into each crevice her lover holds

exposed to her fickle ire.

Kapilōñ has flipped ocean’s force to what was

lee. She lumbers listlessly past what was once

a windward reef. Sloshing now permissively,

she must relent

to his manly, time-worn reality.

A perfect time for kappej!

Is that her distant incoming sish I hear?

Sweating now from hot tea and warm fire I lean

head hanging outside in breeze relaxingly


repeated squawk of weary fisher-bird

Nesting the night in his tree.

One fisher to another he decides to

confide with me this ancient proverb told by

fishers one and all. Feared by prey big and small

from age to age

this prescient advice never grows old —

ōṃlep jab tōpar koņan.

In hurried interpretation, one might say

“Don’t rush off half-cocked.” That catches the meaning

well enough for some, but never at loss for


he continues his explanation. I

present my best translation:

“Who can say what countless seasons of broken

Coral and tidal shifting sands it takes to

raise one sandy spit upon the flat of one

islet-less reef?

How many fisher-birds to fertilize

roots for kōņņat trees to cling?

comes drifting over shore to sprout and there grow?

How many more before seafarer shorn from shore

“How untold more until mother coconut

can site from sea?

Then when by then can they plan their return

to plant and fish, weave and breed?

“What can one man’s rushing do when all’s been done?

Rather day by day to scatter bones of prey

yet every single quantity set against


succeeds not to budge the scale, one fish more

or twenty score all the same.

“Which has greater reality? Cold-eyed shark

or faltering prey? Answer lies within your

Soul. As for me I swear to live, hunt and die

with quality

of passion. Who eats me gets but bone. My

soul forever free shall roam!

“So, deliberate it all my friend, fish as

slowly as it all began. Never worry

about what brings success. Those luckiest are  

but timeliest.

Why hurry? You have but one moment to

live, eat, die, and be eaten?”

Thus, ends the gist of my shortest translation.

I shake yesterday’s sand from torn tennis shoes

Yes you, shit in moonlight and compile your poo.

Yet, even I,

collector of distant sharp-edged coral sands,

am a builder of islands.

Childish crying soul, you daily flocking fly

screaming at your sister tuna below to

chase skyward your fleeing, fingerling meals.

Gracelessly you

flop upon your pray, then come to princely shit

quantities of chalky goo.

I, with greater spirit fly, yet even I

amidst these adventurous designs of mine

must stop to express superiority.

So urgently,

I hang basket over shoulder and slip

knife between its palm leaf weave,

and make my way along this time again trail

through dim mosquito drone listlessness

of this island’s narrow, dank interior.

that echoes sounds

as pigs grovel, night birds squawk and ocean’s

reef surge shoreward with each step.

Smells of soured fallen coconuts and dead,

rotten palm leaves I inhale before I drag

my cane-pole’s butt-end through kōņņat lined islet’s

boulder-strewn strand,

as sky opens upon me urgently

as I clutch soft fallen leaves.

I one-handedly gather as I rush to

untie my belt I step onto reef and squat

before vast expanse of turbid ocean-sky.

Much relieved I

Gaze contented at un-ended measure

of my I all aloneness.

My stomach pangs insistently, patiently

I comply. Then leaf myself behind with brine.

Moon shines silver bright as cloud blows from under.

Its gloomy ghost

fleeing from flat rock-strewn reef be-under-me –

gone to haunt the seaward breeze.

Above clouds sweep, icy wisps above them creep

below patches of blackness where stars must spin

upon their way, planets orbit other days

galaxies grind

stars into greater men than I. Surely,

I alone behold this sky.

Reflected by puddles upon stark, flat reef

haunted by gigantic, jagged coral rocks –

Megalithic spirits cast up by ancient

raging nights –

now hunched and scattered as though guarding shore

harmlessly concealing crabs.

As far as my eyes can see waves curl gently.

Break surging gray, moon’s glow almost forgotten.

My bait surprises as he sideways-scampers.

My fingers pounce.

My thumb incaves. His scramble saves him not.

He dies at basket’s bottom.

I continue seaward, overturning my

rocky way — like a fisher bird stalking pray.

Beneath my tennis shoe you die. You and I

determined eyed,

most presently present to seek, escape,

or uncourageously die.

Like a wind-swept leaf tumbling to final

resting place, all of us must one night give up

to greater forces that negate our choices.

Wondering why?

This universe of why — yet only I

decide, question, and recall.

I continue, retreating before the wind

casting my shadow across this barren reef,

quick-stepping yet remembering my motto

not to hurry.

I head with deliberation toward

past-proven spot for kappej.

Balancing myself upon now living corals

like wadding to the knuckle of one partially

submerged, horrendous, out-stretched and grasping hand,

coral crumbling

beneath my shoes, careful not to canvas tare,

I reach first place of calling.

Surround me sounds of ocean’s majestic breath —

exhaled surging, coral seething, churning, then

inhaled receding, draining, sucking sounds of

ever echoed

voice of one trillion coral crevices

exploding then imploding.

Sights of moon drawn sea flash silver as clouds pass.

Bright water bleeds down through jagged coral cliffs

into maelstrom caverns of white seething foam.

Rolling toward me

waves froth and tumble as I see, hear, taste

all as one compelling song.

Commencing my attack, I take one of eight

shoulders torn from our friend’s multilegged chest.

Peal shell from victim’s upper arm. Crunch lower

between my teeth.

Spit chum into palm of flinging hand, and

toss his scent into the flux.

“Kook, kok, kok, kok, kook! Wōde im ajoḷe!”

I chant calling his predators to come

toss blobs of crunched up chum to tease them some, so

life precedes death.

I wonder why we decry the later?

To live we all must eat

Insert barb of hook through hollow shoulder’s shell.

Now swing line slack, wired hook fling back then wrist snap

bait forward flies slap upon surface of pool


down into crystal black — sinks silently.

Momentarily I wait.

Lightning-like red snapper strikes and threatens pole

Not tonight! I raise him surface-thrashing.

He attempts to retreat, but not tonight. I

Air wrestle him

to coral ledge of pool, butt end braced into

notch of my determined hip.

He lands flapping onto puddled coral ledge.

Soon large-mouthed basket laughs at his useless flaps.

Carefully I pinch into sockets of eyes.

I Lift his head.

Work hook free from choking jaw, then slide

back down destined there to die.

Turning I notice gray clouding up looming

over island’s palms. Headed my way? Okay!

Moments of nothingness as line languishes,

drifts bait forlorned. Yet

nothing shall outmatch this sure intrepid

fisherman’s will to succeed

I up-tug, and up-yank up, yet no fish snaps.

I recoil, re-slap re-wait expectantly.

Pool flushes, recedes, surges, as bait waits


Clouds rush, grayness drifts towards and threatens me.

I snicker at its pretense.

How many untold nights have I spent cruising

up and down this reef? Facing rain’s blackest squall —

proving time and time again the magic of

my spirit’s call —

keeping one rule upon my mind – lucky

fishermen must keep moving.

Only I among this ceaseless, cyclic flux

can contemplate my out of place bad luck. So

without discouragement I turn back windward.

Like pejwak bird

re-circling his ocean pray, responding

as baitfish wander away.

Unencumbered moonlight beams upon bald reef…

Ugly slanting toward me grayness now betrayed

by brightened sky — revealing back-lit sparkling

thin drape of rain,

and moonlit mounds of red and blue coral

surf-frothed as I wade away.

Step over undulations of deep reef well

gurgling its water ebbs and seaward flows,

then cycles up-gushing sounds of skyward spew

back-splashing me

as I pause before too lately leaping on

its spine trickling chill lingers.

As I approach I nor before fished crater —

seaward sheltered by breakers of upgrown coral.

Intuition drawn, I edge my way along


myself no doubt above predators that

dart about its blue-black depths.

“Kook, kok, kok, kok, kook! Wōde im ajoḷe!”

I cry, my line attacked by forceful jerking

angling pole to breaking point I bend the will

of moon-reef beast.

Draw his fitfully protest to side of pool,

raise him gasping first dry breath.

Fling him splashing flap onto coral ledge. He

wrangles into shallow coral cranny, then

presses his face into shallow pool. You fool!

I draw my knife

crunch cranium as pool surges rinsing

spirit free to seaward flee?

Slip finger under jawbone, over gills.

Lift him blood seeping, dripping moon-shined brine-

Snapper of gigantic size hanging lifeless

his spirit flies

into ocean or up to sky? No one

I know knows to what nor where?

Who can know what untold spirits fly this air

or cruise below? Even so, I shall not fear.

I shall not want for courage. I shall not daunt!

Though time itself

shall grind my bones to sand, this silent cheer

shall be capped and set adrift.

I hear a thousand hollows gurgling below.

Oh yes, I know in what countless numbers cruel

monsters squirm below within their lairs. I’ve seen

their narrow heads

poke through upon these moonlit nights and sway

like cobras about to strike.

They say they snap at any splashing sound.

Drag victims down into their coral caves.

They say they latch onto flesh of leg or hand


tare meat from bone or clutch relentlessly

till turning tide drowns you dead.

Rows of teeth throat-ward pointed, ready to lunge

Un-extractable, entwined somewhere below

amid the under-maze of crevices, he


awaits your step, they say. Fellow fisher

I plan to cut loose your head.

I give them not one thought tonight, Turn to

darkening under-passing clouds above instead.

Windward the blackness looms. I will not fear. Those

cold slanting streams

of rain may then heighten this lonely cry:

“Sky enhance my spirit’s flight!”

I rebait, recast as I feel first drops of

strength splash upon my back — crater into sea.

Striking jato explodes up defiantly

airward wrangled.

Once again, my noisy basket laughing,

Again, my chanted crying

to harden spirit against now howling wind.

Repeated rebaiting, recasting, waiting,

I now chant again my audacious magic


cold blackness falling across dark bleak reef —

like a pejwak’s midnight squawk.

My will enhanced I fill my basket again

then again to sounds of a trillion raindrops

splashing — wind lashing — snapper skyward slashing —

basket landing.

Struggling triumphant sounds of fisher’s

Fifth, sixth, seventh cold eyed catch.

Raincloud passes upon my soul now big as

the sky. I can see through the gray to the deep

blue moonshined clearness of western beyond. Stars

poke peacefully

through the lifting rain. Flying fish takes flight –

I see my whole life pass as

his image skirrs across the edge of me. Glides

upon in-swelling, nearly breaking wave.

It whirrs sleekly upon its updraft at last

gently tucking

itself back to this ever changing

sea of surely something’s sight.

Gone away I imagine it persisting

below. As I imagine the tides changing

ageless aging – the spirits secret I know

is unending.

I can sense the powerful insistent

duration of a life’s time —

a sea’s time — a moon’s time — a star’s time. I can

see the world and its shadow as well.

Yet still I cherish what makes me a man and

defines myself

as no one else: My will to fly and then

just as well to tuck and die.

Again, I cry: “kook, kok, kok, kok, kok, kok, kook”

But my chant’s magic has faded with the rain

Then one unanticipated fierce jerking

breaks line, takes hook.

Senses betrayed by imagination

My untimely visions fade.

Bad luck? Who can say what courage a man has

caught upon his way? Or how much sky he’s trapped

within his eye? What mysteries have forged his

will to steel? I

never consider failure or success —

roving nights but spirit’s flights.

A man casts his time upon a line fragile

as his dying breath, yet grapples up his world

holds onto it with all his might, and molds his

soul’s signature

as if carving his name upon trunk of

tree in which his spirit nests.

Flying nightly to and fro, no man knows for

what he seeks nor what he will returning bring

that will add one final defining touch to

his life’s long song.

The man who fails to mark his tree forfeits his

spirit’s sole chance to be.

Among a crowd of others, a fisher stands

unto himself. All those standing in between

rush like children pursuing their inner selves


each succeeds or fails to make their mark. All

life is but a one hook night.

I have since returned to my thatched cookhouse fire.

Fish salted, others eaten, I’ve slurped my tea.

This song I have composed to leave my mark, I


paper into bottle and toss to sea

when you read think not of me.