Last Fish

Tide laps up the tracks of shore birds,
swallows the holes of ghost crabs,
please wade towards me once more

from the snarled shade of mangroves,
a silhouette polished by the flare
of water. We’re without purpose

at this hour when the world goes
on like we were never here
other than to float on the last light,

drifting dazed as if we’ve plunged
from the height of squalling birds
that plummet around us diving for

the day’s last fish, while fathoms
up the sky turns deeper blue.

Stuart Dybek is a masterful short story writer as well as poet. The qualities that distinguish his fiction—a strong connection to place, particularly his native Chicago, childhood nostalgia tinged with irony, a meandering narrative pace, and an ability to find beauty amid urban blight—also characterize much of his poetry. Few writers have captured street life as movingly as Dybek. The son of a Polish immigrant, he has published two critically acclaimed books of short stories, The Coast of Chicago and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, as well as a collection of linked stories: I Sailed with Magellan. He teaches at Western Michigan University and lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


  1. I find myself reading this while sitting on a tropical island, surrounded by mangroves, my view only slightly interrupted by the brilliant white swallow-tails drifting past. I’m here contemplating the death of a friend, a fellow who made tracks with me on these same beaches. I feel a true purpose here.

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