James Still (1906-2001, Kentucky)
Leap Minnows, Leap
The minnows leap in drying pools,
In island of water along the creekbed sands
They spring on dying tails, white bellies to the sun,
Gills spread, gills fevered and gasping.
The creek is sun and sand, and fish throats rasping.
One pool has a peck of minnows.
One living pool
Is knuckle deep with dying, a shrinking yard
Of glittering bellies. A thousand eyes look, look,
A thousand gills strain, strain the water air.
There is plenty of water above the dam, locked and deep,
Plenty, plenty and held. It is not here.
It is not where the minnows spring with lidless fear.
They die as men die. Leap minnows, leap.