Carrion Fish

by Paul Brooke
Amazon River

He had just begun

to believe all

human beings

are inherently good

when he finds the box.

Half-submerged, the box

is baited with a rotting

carcass of a boto.  It attracts 

a swarm of paracatinga,

the ruthless carrion fish.

Columbians taught 

the locals how to build

and prepare the trap.

Most Brazilians do not

even like paracatinga.

Downriver, he finds 

a pink dolphin alive, 

bound and tied dockside,

surname carved into her flank. 

Its baby dead in the shallows.

He cuts the rope and frees her.  

She swims under her baby,

tries to elevate it to breathe.  

He cannot help but hang 

his head in shame.

He doesn’t want to accept

the fact: people are pure evil;

they cannot see the cruelty 

of their own hands,

their own sick mechanisms.

He climbs the slippery slope

to the fisherman’s house,

rope in hand, knife in sheath,

and pounds hard.  He thinks, 

I am conscience knocking.

“Bring your daughter,” he says.

He descends to the dock

and makes the fisherman 

watch the mother and the calf.

“Sit,” he says, “sit and think.”

The daughter nestles into his lap

as the mother nuzzles her dead

calf.  Sobbing deep and aching,

the daughter breaks.  The father

repeats, breathe, just breathe.

Sloth and Moth

Bradipodicola hahneli lives on the fur of the sloth

and lays its eggs when the sloth descends to defecate.

About 127 moths can live comfortably on a given sloth.

The world’s population just reached 7 billion people.


A bizarre island

drifts slowly, its forests

flowering with algae,


its coastline studded

with spire-sharp

façades of stone,


a peaceful place,

full of grazing 

and plenty of naps.


Its inhabitants

live luxuriantly,

not luxuriously,


a gracious host,

ample flesh-pots,

ample panoramas,


a tiny sphere


in equilibrium.

Paul Brooke is the author of six books including Arm Wrestling at the Iowa State Fair, Sirens and Seriemas and Jaguars of the Northern Pantanal. He studies jaguars in his spare time and lifts heavy stuff.