Fishing for Dark
by Todd Dillard
I tell my daughter I fish for dark
in the backyard after she falls asleep.
I heave a rock aside,
opening a hole to the center of the earth,
drop a fishing line into it
and pull up snarls of shadows,
quilts of black, rags of mist. I say
they swim around my head
in the foam of the moon’s spilled beer
before swirling back into the earth.
I tell her she’s my best girl
and she tells me I’m her best dad
and at the push of a button I summon
the monsoon on her sound machine
and leave her on dreaming’s infinite porch.
The next day she comes home weeping.
Her friend called her stupid, ugly.
She wants to see the secret rock,
the hole from where I pull the dark.
Nothing else will,
she says, console her.
But my love, I say, there is no rock.
And her face stills.
There’s no hole to the center of the earth, I say.
And she opens her mouth.
There’s no darkness
that ripples overhead
through the current of the night.
From my daughter’s throat a shadow unfurls.
Long and thin at first, black eel,
but it grows
limbs, it stands.
It watches us–
not in an unkind way
–almost soft, the dim
around a pulsing night light.
As twilight sweeps over us
and it turns to vanish
into the dark, I wonder
should I call to it,
ask it to stay.
Todd Dillard’s work has appeared in Poet Lore, Waxwing, The Adroit Journal, Fairy Tale Review, and Guernica. His debut collection Ways We Vanish (Okay Donkey Press) was a finalist for the 2021 Balcones Poetry Award. He is a Poetry Editor at The Boiler Journal. Todd can be found on Twitter @toddedillard.