The World’s Oldest Rockfish

The world’s oldest rougheye rockfish

Was caught off Alaska, in July of 2013.

You were 212, they later found out:

Your eyes were bulgy and cold,

Pupils like black pebbles in a shallow glass of milk.

He held you up, that fisherman did,

(The article said he was from Seattle)

With cheeky lips that ran up to his glasses,

As he stretched that yellow measuring tape

To consummate the whole thing.

*

There was probably something in the pageantry

That attracted our fish friend—

After two hundred and twelve years

Sitting at the bottom of that cold reef,

Older than all his cohabitants,

(The others had all taken the bait)

His children all grown up and doing well for themselves—

He’d spend his days sitting in leather kelp armchairs,

Watching that silent underwater world go by.

*

You lived longer because you were smarter,

My old rougheyed rockfish friend.

There was something exceptional about you—

Something you’d figured out in all those years

That finally made you bite that hemlock baitfish.

That’s more than we can say for that quahog clam

They scooped off the shelf of Iceland—

400 years old, it was, at the time of its death.

But that quahog clam didn’t have any choice,

And besides, being a bottom feeder is a boring business.

*

No; you, my fuchsia friend, decided your years were enough;

You’d seen all you needed to see with those big Homeric eyes;

Or maybe you’d felt the ocean temperatures begin to rise;

Or you’d tasted all the best sashimi—the freshest there could be—

The type they put a premium on and sell

For thousands of dollars to Le Boissonnerie in Paris.

But nobody’s going to eat you—you’re far too old for that

Your centuries of thought have toughened your hide

And made you inedible, much more than mere meat.

So we’ll drink to you, and your life, my fine fish friend,

And ponder a little (with a nice Chablis) your moment of triumph,

And how, being caught, you gained the greatest gift

mankind can bestow: momentary immortality.

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