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Gary Fincke: Selflessness

In the animal kingdom, among fish,

one father carries all of the laid eggs

in his mouth, sixty-five day starvation

to make that flexible, deep mouth a womb. 

Such sacrifice, spitting them out at last,

following that fast with the daily chores

of parenting: to guard them while they feed,

to take them back into his mouth like God.

Those babies need to grow before something

hungry finds them.  They need a place to sleep

safe enough to wake again to feeding,

watched carefully by their selfless father.

He’s a living prayer, that catfish who knows

each child as he opens his mouth for them.

Though every father has limits, and so

does this one, turning his back, one morning,

as they feed, swimming away while he still

knows them, before his children grow so large

he can’t tell them from what he hungers for.

If he forgets to flee, he will eat them.


Copyright 2021 Gary Fincke. Previously published in Virginia Quarterly Review
and The History of Permanence, Stephen F. Austin University Press.

Gary Fincke has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Bess Hokin
Prize from Poetry Magazine. He lives in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

2 comments on “Gary Fincke: Selflessness

  1. Barbara Huntington
    December 2, 2021

    Beautiful. And perhaps the kids get rowdy and play loud music on his teeth!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2021 by in Environmentalism, Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , , , , , .

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