Surge: A Task

by Eric Paul Shaffer

A dead fish means more, without me
telling you the finny stillness on ice
is uhu or aku or ahi. That’s good eating.

Down there in the hard blue, the red
goes black, and the roar in the ears
is not the tide, but the weight of water.

The mystery fades with the light.
Look. Fins flicker and coral glitters
in the sun broken by the waves

as wind enfolds the sea. Everything
glimmers below and sparkles above.

We came to transmit the shimmering
from which we came, to name fish

in these specific waters, to make meaning
of what we touch, gather, and share.

Deep, we see no mystery when the spear
is sharp, and the ocean encompasses all.


Eric Paul Shaffer is author of seven books of poetry, including Even Further West; A Million-Dollar Bill; Lāhaina Noon; and Portable Planet. More than 500 of his poems appear in local, national, and international reviews. Shaffer teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Honolulu Community College.

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