Song of the Fisherman’s Wife

Joshua Gage

Song of the Fisherman’s Wife


This evening, when I peer out the screen
at dusk, with the pink light of sun still caught
in the spiral shell of the horizon’s clouds,
I come undone. I whistle the song my husband taught me,
a song to summon octopi into their traps,
and I am surely seeking something as sacred as octopi
in this city so far from the lullaby of waves.
The song works, and they slip into my room
with the smell of saltwater, bewildered
to be in an apartment in the deep belly of Sapporo.
Now the octopi teach me a new song
that we can sing together, notes to warm the skin
and send them back, send all of us back,
because if it works, I am leaving with them.
It is nearly night, and I can hear Otaru calling,
can feel the moon as it pulls my body’s tides.


Author’s Comments: This is a synthesis of Joy Harjo’s poem “Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On” and the Hokusai painting “Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife.” I’ve always loved the mythic elements in the painting, and Harjo’s form seemed to fit nicely.

Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. His newest chapbook, Origami Lilies, is available on Poet’s Haven Press. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, Ethiopian coffee, and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.

Editor’s Notes: Otaru is city and port in Hokkaido, Japan, northwest of Sapporo and facing Ishikari Bay. The image is taken from “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” also known as “Girl Diver and Octopi.” It is a woodblock-printed design by the Japanese artist Hokusai, which appears in Kinoe no Komatsu, a three-volume book of shunga erotica first published in 1814. [adapted from Wikipedia]. Harjo’s poem referenced in the poem is found here:

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