Friday, July 18, 2014


Artist unknown

In honor and memory of Alex Ploeg, lost to us,
along with his wife and son, on flight MH17 near Ukraine

For certain, 530 million years ago
is a long time back for a soul to
have decided to become the first fish,
and risk being different
just to feel what it is like to swim  –
everything starts with a dream,
they say,
and some soul swam in dreams,
perhaps in a manner similar to
how I fly, sometimes,
though apparently it didn’t occur
to me to become a bird –
at least, not this time

I have known fish. There was one who
came to me, a quarter-sized bluegill,
that I put in the garden pond. We grew
fond of each other; I would dig up worms 
and splash the water surface, and the
fish would come to me and gobble them.
He said, “Thank you!” with his eyes
and the swish of his lovely tail, I swear.
He would jump too, if I held a worm
up; we were like one of those acts at
the big public aquariums, for years.
It was a horrible morning when I discovered
him there, stiff, on his side, two feet
above the pond, on the grand finale rock that turned
a fake stream into a waterfall. “Why did you do that?”
I asked him, gulping my grief,
six inches long –
and happy! Why my friend,
did you leap from your world into mine?
Unanswered questions are so hard,
so necessary

My father killed the first fish I caught.
It was a magnificent bass, a five and a half pounder,
that I landed on a stick and line and bobber
in Canada
when I was five.
I refused to eat it.
He let his fish go

He was six when he fell in love with fish,
some kind, I don’t know  –
In an aquarium. It never released him, not
his soul or his thoughts. Sometimes this
happens to a person. Something in the world
claims them and puts them on a path
and they don’t even realize that they could
have made other choices. It just is this way
and they are joyful about it, not like those of us
always looking about, unable to tell someone
else what we are looking for. It kept feeding him.
When we met, we talked about fish. He smiled
alot. He gazed into a tank of brightly colored, darting
somethings, and suddenly the little boy was there. I don’t
think he realized it. But, I did. I know the look of
a man remembering his first love.
Maybe he too wanted to swim,
but his soul departed this life like a bird

(c) 2014/Jamie K. Reaser 
From "Portraits" (a work in progress)

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Dr. Alex Ploeg working at the Convention on International Trade 
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); photo: (c) Svein Fossa