The Nets Did Not Break

by Rachel Grandey

There was a lost feeling to us as we set out, cast the nets, settled to a night of
a night of what, pretending we were just fishermen, had something we were good at, imagining
the sun might rise over the sea, gracing soft wave-peaks with musty morning gold.
Such comfort as it was we held onto like drowning men.

The sun did rise, but that was all.
No fish for the night’s labours, just the slow-settling empty feel
of failure, that’s what it was. And the hunger, sinking hunger 
for something we didn’t possess. Something that could
hold us together, remind us of a once-something,
the nagging sense that there should be, there could be more.
A salty slap in the face from the vacant wind.

So the sun rose and we turned for home. Nothing else for it. 
Each of us toying with a back-of-the-mind fear
like the last morsel of food on a plate we can’t bear to see empty.
That familiar fear of looking into the unhoped-for unknown. 
Our minds already blown too many times, too raw, too tender 
to face reality. Like waking after a night of too much wine.
But we had no wine, no fish, nothing to hold in our hands but the water
that stung calloused palms and the knotted ropes that burned them.
Our empty, empty hands.

Where he came from I couldn’t say. Who first heard him, who decided to try again, I don’t know.
Most of us were too glum to know any better, still stunned by the dawn gloom, 
held by dark thoughts. 
So we threw the nets on the other side. Too tired, too desolate to care.
What came next was magic but no miracle. The haul, the heavy writhe
of life beneath our hands. The familiar shout, heave, the splash that roused and awoke us.

Then the second awakening, the shout, the splash. There the miracle
waiting for us on the shore with a smoke-hidden smile of welcome and something 
to fill those empty hands, bellies, hearts.

It was a good catch in the end. And the nets did not break.

Rachel Grandey, originally from North-East England, studied literature, linguistics and anthropology before moving to South-East Asia to teach English. She enjoys sea-gazing, bird-watching, tea-drinking and early morning forest-exploring. Her poetry has been published in Vita Poetica and Amethyst Review. 

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