The Crane Wife — Poetry by Joshua Rupp

Once, a crane in Japan
Folded into a woman
To marry a net maker.
We don’t know why.
Perhaps she realized
She could catch more
Fish with a net than
By herself. All we know
About the net maker
Is that he made nets.

On the train to Nova Scotia, a man and a woman in identical black jackets,
Their hair cut in complementary Mohawks, were standing ahead of me
Jostling between two countries as we sped through light the color of a fish eye
And when he took her violin case and coaxed it into the overhead,
Awkwardly perching himself in the middle of the air, she watched him
In the way you watch an animal in disguise that has made a mistake,
Done something a person could not do, something that identifies him
As a bird.

Later, when the net maker
Was showing his son how
Nets are made, the furling
Of circles together that then
Never escape each other,
The stars thunderous apples
Over their porch, the boy
Asked him how he had
Met his mother, and the
Net maker said she had
Come in from a storm,
But he couldn’t remember
If it had been snow or rain.


In Nova Scotia they throw their nets out farther, anguishing against water
That does not open no matter how many names you give it.
A drunk man told me that sometimes seals will pull off their skins
So that they can pretend to speak to people, and I asked him if anyone
Ever tries to steal a skin, to go pretend to be a seal,
And he told me that once when he was younger he caught a narwhal
In his net, and as it battered its blue white flesh against his boat
He sawed away at its horn to free it, neither of them saying a word
To each other, the narwhal never forgiving, never judging,
Until the spiraled horn cracked into the man’s hands and the narwhal
Sank away, the net floating like a shredded mask, leaving them both with nothing.

As when the net maker’s son had a fever,
And when he went to check on him
Found him with his mother’s beak
Lodged in his mouth,
Pushing something down his throat
Or pulling something out of his chest,


And he went out to the porch to catch his breath,
Wondering if it would rain tomorrow,
What that would mean for the fish,
And if he should gather seaweed
To make soup for the sick boy
And thinking that we never really
Meet anyone.
And he thought about the two times
He did not live in now:

The time when he had not been a net maker,
The time when she would no longer be his wife.

©Joshua Rupp

Joshua Rupp lives in the north. He is somewhat private, but friendly. He hopes you are well.

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