the inner alchemy of fish

Fishermen will tell you that to know a fish
you have to think like one. A river becomes
a kind of religion and the fish are the wise ones.
To think like a fish, you have to know the water
in which the fish swims. You must learn to think
wet thoughts, learn to distinguish the taste of reeds
and the depth a turtle dives by night.
Be able to tell the change of seasons by the smell
of the river.

So in the morning, come, make simple offerings of fireflies
and river foam upon altars of fallen trees and tangled roots.
Learn to wear the shadow as your shaman’s cloak, Dance
the sacred dance along the tops of boulders in dappled light.
Become invisible.
Do your daily pujas along the river bank. Breathe in and out.
Take in the morning light and fog that clings along the river’s bend.
Like the heron stand stock-still and listen.
And as the partridge hiding in the underbrush
seek refuge in this sacred place.

In time, you will become familiar with the sutras of the eddies,
the unwavering power and message of the undertow
and the gentle gospel of the shallows. You will learn
the patience of a sandbar where the currents meet inertia,
become strong and unwavering like a ford where resistance
breaks the raging water into harmless pools of froth and foam.

The muezzin call of the osprey will call you, again and again,
to prayer. The river will teach you the esoteric mysteries
of fish, and the fish in turn will teach you how to swim
in the sacredness of water, teach you its inner alchemy
to transform a raging heart into a peaceful backwater.
It will teach you the nature of momentum and the epistles
of impermanence, not just by observation but by Nature’s sheer force.
You will be taught that the river, at any moment, can take you
and sweep you off your feet.
And in your rough baptism of humility and respect you will learn
the basic truths of water and of life’s fluid simplicity.
And like a doe on the river bank, you bow in reverence
to its glory, drink the teachings the river has to offer
and understand the never ending flow of everything.

* * * * *

“the inner alchemy of fish” (c) 2013 by c.m. brooks
originally published in 
Fall Issue, Year Zero of The City Poetry

Christina M. Brooks
 is a poet, writer, runeworker, card artist, Taoist, Buddhist, and vegetarian. She is a native of Detroit, Michigan, who enjoys swordfighting, tennis and gardening and is a traveling poet. She can often be found at readings somewhere in Southeast Michigan and Northern Ohio. She has served as co-editor of the Mnemosyne online literary journal. You can find more of her work in The City Poetry, the Deep Cleveland Junk Mail Oracle, Crisis Chronicles’ Fuck Poetry, the Ohio Poetry Association’s Common Threads, several Hessler Street Fair poetry anthologies and elsewhere.  Her chapbook A Thousand Voices: A City Shaman’s Notebook was published in 2011 by The Poet’s Haven.