This week’s poem, “Eel Fork,” tells of tools, a fishery and their changes over a century. I love the specificity with which poet David Sloan describes the device, the lives of the creatures and the shifting nature of hunting them. “Eel Fork” appears in Sloan’s second collection, “The Rising,” which is out this month. He will give a virtual reading at 7 p.m. on April 23. Join here, using the password “poetry”.

A graduate of the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA poetry program, David Sloan teaches at Maine Coast Waldorf High School in Freeport. His debut poetry collection, “The Irresistible In-Between,” and his second, “The Rising,” were published by Deerbrook Editions.


Eel Fork

By David Sloan


It looks like the offspring

of a garden weeder and Medieval

disemboweler. A hundred years ago

some hopeful eeler secured it

to an oiled maple handle

longer than a harpoon, then stood

with his spear uplifted, his slow-drifting

scow in a Penobscot shallows,

waited for a glimpse of slither

among the reeds, then jabbed

at any mud that moved.


Did he feel a pang, if not remorse,

then envy—for a fish whose life

would have been all symmetry,

begun and ended in the sea

without shores, sea of whirlpools

and ghost ships—or for the eel’s

shape-shifting gift: leaf-like to elver

to silver; its first home salt, then brackish

pools, then freshwater and back,

the last orgiastic intertwining,

spawning and finally spent?


He would never have imagined

a century later, rusted fork prongs

hanging on a barn wall, boat and spear

replaced by a dip net chained

and buoyed in a Down east estuary

on a moonless spring night,

tide running in, when the fortunes

of a family with six kids and a rusting

truck depended upon how many

writhing glass eels—see-through

black-eyed beauties—they haul in. 


Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. DEEP WATER: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Eel Fork.” copyright 2020 by David Sloan, reprinted from his collection A Rising (Deerbrook Editions, 2020), by permission of the author.

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