Sign of Jonah [rev. 1-4-2017; 3rd attempt]

Sign of Jonah

A fisherman attaches furtive bait
to nets he casts into the sea.
He holds the line beneath the dawn and waits.

A testing for the trembling reveals
There’s no catch at the measured depth.
He pulls and each net rises from the sea.

With cudgel, he slashes at the fleshy bait,
and throws the nets across the side
and watches as they sink in the abyss.

He waits. The dawn is breaking the horizon.
He waits, his nets set deeper from the light.
He waits, then jumps toward the quaking,

and he pulls hard to swiftly close the net.
Draw up and hoist, and reach and pull.
Each aching pull has them closer to the sun.

The catch is in as morning becomes bright.
Another net is quaking from the deep.
The sweating brow and hoisting draws them out of night.

One net remains, and bait has baited more.
Through water they are brought from depths
of darkness toward light to see who desires.

Upon the shore the fisher starts a fire,
he dries his cloak and counts the catch.
The first net keeps a catch of thirty-three.

The second holds one hundred forty-four.
The third reveals three hundred thirteen.
He piles them, total, in his cart. For town,

departing for the market, he gives thanks,
breaks off a piece of bread and takes
the handles of the cart in hand and knows

that now is no time to stop or turn back.