the empty tank

the tank appeared empty
just coral in the back

i was young then
with a new found love of aquatic creatures
not yet a man with dreams of drowning
unfamiliar with the sea as a metaphor
the sea had not become a she
that would come later

the empty tank bored me
i tapped my toes
eager to move on
the jelly fish
shimmering translucent blob
those i loved

but this tank
water and sand and coral
did nothing

the cephalopods
those spoke to me
not yet into lovecraft
but verne kindled the admiration
almost an obsession
that would come later
how intelligent
nimble and brave
the shapes they formed
the colors
so alien and enchanting and horrifying and alive

but this tank
yet still my father watched

there was a giant round all glass tank in the center
nurse sharks swam
those interested me as well
all sharks
near perfect killing machines black eyes
devoid of all but hunger
not quite the kraken of my dreams
the giant architeuthis
but nearly as exciting

yet still he watched it
saw his eyes in the reflection of the glass watching me watch him watch both i and the empty tank

then there was a noise
a few fish were released into the tank
i stared
why did they suddenly do that
and from seemingly out of nowhere
this thing flashed out of the coral
it was quick
one at a time the panicked fish
swallowed by the giant open mouth
lined with razor sharp teeth
large round eyes
mine in the glass
those on the greenish eel

i looked at my father and he smiled
that’s a moray he half sang
he laughed as we walked to the next row of tanks
i didn’t get the joke then
appreciate it now though

after that
i found myself watching the seemingly empty tanks
waiting for the predators i was sure remained hidden within
some were just empty
none were as neat

the moray eel never quite eclipsed the octopus
nor the squid
never seemed as fiercesome as a shark
in my mind
but none of those ever haunted my dreams
the way that darting snapping creature of efficient predatory finesse did
none made me jump either

i can still see it
swaying in the water
snapping those jaws
or just watching
darting back into the coral
ready to pounce

that’s a moray

2 thoughts on “the empty tank

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