Kirk Greenway

Eel: Kirk Greenway

That voluptuous curve, your jagged teeth,
plying through the ocean like a snake,
or a winged worm, twisting, writhing,
water flowing through your gills.

The Sargasso sea is your home,
while you are crystalline glass,
almost invisible, a juvenile with a dark eye,
hiding in the kelp.

Haiti oh Haiti, your men find us,
shining lights on the edge of the sea,
and take us back to tanks to be grown
for money since we are worth our weight in gold.

Imagine gold in a laundry,
a laundromat, filling the coin slots,
brimming out of the small boxes
where the coins are kept,
jangling in the dryer,
not just in buckets,
a slow roaster
of Double Eagles,
Maple Leaves,
a Vienna Philharmonic percussion section
swirling in the dryer.
Would it make a good pet?
Aquarium workers love the moray’s grin
when they scratch it on the back.
They say it is a dog like fish,
if only, if only we would let fish be themselves,
train them like the pets they are,
move them into the moral circle of cats and dogs,
they would not seem so robotic.

Fish might wear tuxedoes,
dance a waltz on New Year’s Eve,
they already know synchronized swimming.
Perhaps, an eel could be taught to plié or pirouette,
if its brain had a neuro link silicon microchip.
They might again escape the hands of their captors,
pan for gold in the Sargasso Sea,
go skiing in the Alps,
then drink fine sherry in the Bay of Cadiz.

Uni not Unagi was such a macho thing.
You would sit on a bar stool—
and there it was piled on a black lacquer tray,
next to salmon, caviar, and even an omelet,
the only cooked thing there.
Sometimes uni would show,
spirited from a can,
slathered with oyster sauce
like a man about to shave.

I can see Sigmund Freud, biologist,
through the frustration of not finding
your sex organs, those tiny, elusive pearls
that line your backbone.
Abandoning the search,
he moved it to another level
as water becomes a cloud,
from eel organs to Breuer and Bertha,
psychoanalysis and hysteria,
a deeply rooted plague
fixed in the software of a brain.

We must dig out the grave of Frederick Douglass,
reanimate his corpse and send him to Haiti again.
Jovenel can join him in the morning
after he goes fishing for elves.
Eels are caught at night in molasses dark waters.
Fishermen work the shoreline with flashlights tied to their foreheads.
All you see at the shore in the dark are swarms of fireflies, all alight.
All else is inky blackness,
and in that night, boats arrive from nowhere,
and no one knows what’s in them–
maybe export licenses.

I think it is Frederic Douglass
standing tall on a dinghy–
Washington crossing the Delaware.
It’s no money laundering operation for the drug trade,
one person could never control these fireflies.

It is Frederick and Jovenel flying in
for a snack of salted, toasted mayi,
along with Agwé’s consort, Sirene.
They fly into Savane Diane.
People cut the grass so they can land
to drink some Saint-Rémy that tastes like blood.

Then, Sirene turns her eyes
to look upon the dead, the crushed,
the captive, the drowned,
swirls her dark hair,
and dives into the sea again.


Kirk Greenway (b. 1961, Michigan) has written poetry off and on in one form or another since he was in second grade due to a school assignment. Three years later, he was first exposed to the French language and the violin, and both have intimately influenced him ever since that year. In the language, he found poetry, and in the instrument, fire. In 1983, he saw London for the first time, and his love for that city has remained. His AM paper in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, “A Metadiscourse on London Office of Works Discourse during the Surveyorship of Sir Christopher Wren,” was a sprawling historical monologue one inch thick concerning the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666, a work very different than that of T.F. Reddaway. He lives in a small blue house in Washington Grove, Maryland, with his wife of 19 years, Misook, with whom he shares two sons and clutches of wild birds.