Apollo and Otter

March 12, 2014

Apollo and Otter kill a two-headed fish
in the sand as they emerge from the sea.
That sand is the killer, they think—
which leaves four eyes to shine above the tide’s
high water mark—two mouths to feed.
A perch, Apollo calls it. A sea perch.
But there are two fishes dead, Otter says.
There must be two souls as well.
Look at us, says Apollo. No divisions here,
just a fable or a parable or something—
something that  ties my soul to yours.
Otter, you held my breath to help me swim.
You hold me still, for I am mighty Apollo.
What a strange sun this water brings to shore.

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3 Responses to “Apollo and Otter”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Thanks, Apollo. I’ve come to think that this version is the more genuine of the two –well, let me put it this way: I’ve come to think this is the better poem—there’s never been a question as to which is the more genuine. This one arose in a dialog between me and my sub-consciousness. John’s interesting comment was, yes, interesting, but not a part of my ‘sense of the world’ and shouldn’t be as part of my poem. Honesty in poetry…a very complex thing—and of course very simple too.
    I don’t think this poem is about souls per se; rather it is about individualism—and using the idea of souls as a way of defining that identity. Apollo and Otter were chosen as names because they are ultimately such odd bedfellows yet they are yoked together—like that two headed fish. We don’t think of fish as having souls at all—not even if it is a particular type of fish. This fish is a perch [get it?]to sit on, survey the water, maybe it even saved them (Apollo ) helped them to get out of the water. Climb up on, Apollo, see the sea for what it is—no, not a place for you—holding your breath yet.
    So, who kills the fish? I would say A and O—but perhaps inadvertently. Thee sand really does nothing except be there. And are they two or one entity? Depends on how seriously you think the parables and fables are. And my, a parable and a fable are two distinct things aren’t they? It’s a little worrying to me that Apollo is rather casual in his thinking here—that ‘or something’. Something must be holding us together, right Otter? Apollo? Oh well, the tide abides. Let’s leave that smelly old fish on the beach.
    And thanks Thomas. I’m going to spend some time chewing over Desperation’s Providence

  2. Thomas Davis Says:

    Good Lord, Jim. What do I make of Apollo and Otter? Apollo is the sun god. Even I know that, but otter? In Wind in the Willows is extroverted, tough, and pretty much self sufficient. But who is Otter here? That fellow in the Yellowstone river that slides down snowbanks when it’s twenty below zero Fahrenheit and a wind is blowing? Or someone else?
    This poem seems to me to be about souls. Apollo and Otter kill a two-headed fish as they emerge on sand from the sea. They think the sand did the killing for some inexplicable reason, although the first line clearly says:
    “Apollo and Otter kill a two-headed fish…”
    Perhaps they brought the two-headed fish out of the sea and the lack of breath kills it on the sand, making the sand guilty, although more likely Apollo and Otter simply cannot accept the blame.
    Anyway, the fish’s death leaves four eyes above the high tide mark and two mouths to feed.
    Apollo then points out to Otter, being a helpful sort since he is the sun god, that the fish they were about to feed their hunger with was a sea perch.
    “But there are two fishes dead, Otter says.
    There must be two souls as well.”
    Apollo, being the sensitive sort then looks at himself:
    “Look at us, says Apollo. No divisions here,
    just a fable or a parable or something—
    something that ties my soul to yours.”
    Wait! Apollo and Otter are separate, two beings aren’t they? But Apollo looks at the two of them and sees no divisions. Divisions, he says, are just a parable or something. He feels that Otter’s separate soul is tied to his, and…what?
    Then he explains, sort of:
    “Otter, you held my breath to help me swim.”
    A flaming sun god probably can’t swim. He’d steam more than likely. But this otter probably isn’t the otter in Wind in the Willows after all. He can hold the sun god’s breath so that the sun god can swim. That’s quite an otter! Anyway, he doesn’t seem like a cockney at all, and Otter in Wind in the Willows is a cockney caricature.
    So are we supposed to accept that souls are dependent on other souls to breathe in the sea? What sea? A bigger sea than the sea? Maybe the sea of the universe? We are talking sun god after all–and others.
    And Apollo notes, talking to Otter:
    You hold me still, for I am mighty Apollo.
    Is there no lessening of soul holding once a deed is done?
    Ah yes, looking out over the sea called Lake Michigan this morning,
    “What a strange sun this water brings to shore.”
    Perhaps there is even a religious connotation as I look out toward the sun (son?). Otter, this is a poem!

  3. John Stevens Says:

    I remember Penelope on your beach recently. Now look who’ve turned up!
    Your last poem asked:
    “Why shouldn’t your every sentence start
    with the formality of a birth?”
    And now this poem starts with a kill. Where are you taking us Jim?


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