The Striped Marlin We Set Free by Cynthia Good

Looking for dorados in the gulf we trolled fast
From harbor toward Chileno Bay, and landed
A baby striped marlin under fifty pounds,
Her satin skin a negligee of streaming indigo,
Yellow and green, her elegant bill, sharp
As a sword but useless in the struggle. She
Flailed hard, drumming the hallowed fiberglass,
Heaving her slim self into a corner, torso arching,
Hammering with all she had. Imagine her surprise
As ocean flooded her eyes, a hook ripping into
Her lip. We felt her in our chairs where we sat
Watching her stomp and snake her midsection. I
Wanted to scream to make it stop. She thrashed
Like her life depended on it, like she knew she
Wouldn’t last another twenty minutes, like she knew
What we wanted to do to her. She battered
The only thing she had, banging body into boat.
I felt her thump the scorching deck, and steadied
Against the pitch, diesel burning our noses. I saw
Her stunned-wide eyes. She pounded like she knew
If she lost, we would tear her open like fabric,
A dull knife slicing into a burger, like she knew we
Would carve her into pieces, maybe eat her alive
As my father and I did after catching tuna,
Like she knew once dead, we’d hoist her up
To weigh our trophy, like the stuffed four hundred-pounder
My son caught, now in an ex-boyfriend’s attic,
That we’d laugh and high five one another
With our grimy salt-crusted hands, glistening
With her scales as they caught the spinning sun,
Like she knew they’d hose down the deck, diluting
Her burgundy, flushing away any sign of her,
Until there’d be no evidence we were ever there.

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