Hooked Fin

Group of dolphins in body of water


Twin cranes on the port wall hulked ten stories high.

Further out, a barge stubbed the horizon.

Ahead of the wind, a skiff crossed the channel

with four men aboard.


The porpoise did not see these things.

In her world, the summer sky

was a pale and distant ghost;

real was the vault of green all around,

the murk and the eddies,

cold current cutting through blocks of salt water,

and fathoms overhead,

the thrum and churn of white-bellied boats.


More real were the sleek-sided shapes

beside, behind, and below her:

thick, dark forms muscling through the water

hunting schools of menhaden.

This formation was security,

this muted world, familiar, free.

She did not want to breathe.


She’d hoped to last longer.

Surfacing in tandem dulled the sensation.

Two could arc and suck in air,

then dive deep, racing together

for the cool safety of the sandy floor.


But she could not wait for company.

Up she rose, leaving her pod below,

up to the loud and blinding light,

hooked dorsal poking through the surf,

exposing her broad black back to the burn.


She breathed, took in heat and

the stink of diesel and marsh.

Worst was the heft of the sky.

Yet she failed to sense more subtle peril:

the shaded eyes that watched her fin.



Poem by Nancy Young

Nancy Young has played with words in every phase of life: as an academic, a reporter, an editor, and a writer. Besides a pile of poems and short stories, she’s penned three novels: Seeing Things, Hearing Things, and Sensing Things. The Last Girl Standing is the title of her poetry chapbook. For more, Please check out nancymyoung.com.