James Hall: “Death Redistributes”


If you ever watched a pound-net
full of fish bailed into a wooden boat,
you heard the decrescendo drumbeat
of the fishes’ hollow thrumming,
and you saw a mist of slime
above the fish descend and dry.

You may have noticed how in death
the bluefish’s pale blue intensifies
to deep, lustrous indigo, and the rockfish’s pinstripes
darken to handsome charcoal
against its age-tinted, ivory flanks, as if decked out
for its own funeral. And you may wonder,
How dare death enhance a creature’s beauty!

Yet, I saw death restore to my aunt
a serenity not seen in her for ages.
Death returned to her what dementia stole.
Death removed her agitation, smoothed
her troubled features. Then,
with one quick flick of its wrist,
passed the agitation along to her heirs,
where it survived for years.

James Hall has had poems, fiction and non-fiction in a number of magazines, literary and otherwise, including TriQuarterly and North American Review. He has also published two Chesapeake Bay related collections of fiction (Paradise: Stories of a Changing Chesapeake, Rappahannock Press) and non-fiction (Chesapeake Reflections, The History Press).

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