Birds and Fish and Loaves and Fathers

by gm

Tanja Bartel


Another shooting. Flocks of neighbours turning away.

Plants can grow up without fighting. Listen. Roots of the West Coast rainforest communicate with one another.

Salmon start working a new job after death when grizzlies carry their carcasses into the woods as fertilizer.

My timid father was chased, caught, and hauled in by the U.S Coast Guard for cross-border fishing. Disoriented, he gunned his commercial salmon vessel when ordered to stop.

All the way to the dementia phase of his life. Tangled lines, a torn net. Jailor didn’t care who he was before. He was flight.

Order and precision of fish scales arranged in a pattern. Never caught, never seen. Hundreds of pounds of art rotted in the boat’s hold during the two-week impound. We’d have eaten only the dull inside part anyway, discarded the shining armour. Flash then trash.

Fights can grow long tails.

A memory I carry into the woods to fertilize my prejudice: I never met
the deck hand, but apparently he threw down his gear, jumped off my dad’s shaky wood boat, and made the whirly finger gesture at his temple.

A single act creates your entire character.

Birds move together in unison like schools of fish do. They mime
all the fish we cannot see.

Unity means moving as a single spirit. Knowing when to randomly change direction, a test to keep us in tune. There is no other reason for turning away, again and again.

I ignored my father as much as possible when he was alive. Went out of my way to stay out of his way. Strain to remember his stance, ring of hair around his balding head. Babyish texture, so transitory.

The second childhood, they call it. I say we’re big fat babies in the middle years when we get what we bawl for, if we can pay.

My father shuffled off bewildered into death. When you can’t swallow water, that’s it. Eventually, he dried up in a hospital bed. A fish out of water, invisible under the sheets.

Being thirsty means you want to live on.

Roman soldier held a vinegar-soaked sponge up to Jesus when he said, “I thirst.” After everything he’d been through.

A single act of cruelty becomes history.

Someone made a note of it. Now he’s in the Bible, as an example. The Bible is like social media that way, but social media is not like the Bible.

Dark-faced Jesus would be shot today while walking on water carrying loaves and fish for all. Fishing out of bounds. Mistaken as looter, insurgent.

In the end, my father flew away in search of less hostile waters.