A SEA MONSTER CALLED ‘HAPPINESS’

by earthquakeinthepoorhouse

There is a sea monster called Happiness
Lurking in the bay.
Flippered, snorkelled & suspended in the
Tugging, towing, pushing, pulling,
Surging, swelling, heaving, eddying
Vastness of saltwater beneath the waves
I have glimpsed it through many filmy veils
Of plankton motes
& algal rafts
& diaphanous blooms of cloudy silt sediment
Stirred up by my foraging in & on the seabed.
It is a flighty creature
& scarce ever comes within range
Of so much as the most tremulous caress
A gloved hand might contrive to manage.
Even when it feels bold enough to show me
The pearl-whites of its many vociferous teeth –
While I am occupied at combing through the sandy bottom flats
Out near the shelf in search of scallops for my tea –
Finding me thusly engaged
& showing its teeth in a sardonic grin,
It lingers but a moment
Before darting out into the sheltering shoals beyond the break
There to watch me from a distance.
The sight of a bag of string or mesh
Near full to bursting with fat bivalves
& molluscs
& other such edibles plucked from the ocean floor
Causes Happiness to sing a dim, sweet song,
Though the song it sings
Is never the same song twice.
I have heard it times enough to know it that
The beast does not draw upon anything akin to
A suite of songs, as such
(Each being,
For instance,
A variation upon the broad theme of seafood,
Or else singular hymnals
To a particular totemic catch).
For the songs it sings
Are each sung in a different key,
Each occupying an undefined span of notes
& the scales of which are
Likewise to be held inconstant,
Save that they are ever changeable
& always changing.
At other times,
I will catch sight of the creature’s broadside
& the ill-defined curves of its flanks
Teeming in stippled shafts of sunlight
Cut through with swathes of shadow
Out there in the deep water
As it swerves away from me
& bolts into the umbrous forest of great kelp
Still yet farther out to sea.
When, in season, I light upon stray crayfish
Prowling the undersea crags,
Happiness approaches, drawn toward me
As though upon a fine, braid line.
Whether it shares my own enthusiasm for lobster tails
Or else is merely intrigued by the weirdness
Of the cray’s innumerable spines
& searching appendages
(Which draw unending,
Languid figures eight
Against the weight
Of water pressing down),
I do not know.
At times like these
I am wont to mouth streams of words
Diffused in trailing strands of bubbles
To the sentinel sea monster, saying:
‘I might spare a small one, if you would like it.’
Though Happiness’ expression in answer to this is invariably to say:
‘I should prefer to fetch up an octopus from out yonder deep,
Or else a fattish brittlestar or crab.’
Yet when my modest hopes are dashed
& my groping fingers meet with aught of shellfish
Or cucumbers on the bottom,
Happiness keeps a fearful distance from me
So that nothing of it shows
But for the stumpy fin
That crowns the sweeping curve
Of its spinous processes –
For this alone is sleek
Or else glossy sufficient to catch what little sunlight
Might filter down to illuminate it.
I fear that one day Happiness will press its fins to its flanks,
& forming thusly the shape of a constant flame,
Will jet off through the open ocean
To the silent deeps
Of a new & distant bay.
What dire toll this will take
Upon the sweetness of my scallops
& the readiness of the crays
To submit to the pot,
I cannot say,
Though I shudder to think
Of the weedy rockeries
& darkening ridges
Out there beyond the sanded seafloor
Being altogether void of Happiness
& consumed by raking ocean waste.

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