Dark Night of the Sole


Doug Ramspeck





The first time I read The Old Man and the Sea, in junior high, I wanted to pluck out my bored eyes.  The next time, just after college, I wept for Santiago’s plight with the dark night of the human-shit condition.  Now, these years later, I am reluctant to turn the pages again for fear that I will roll my eyes at the masculinist puffery or grow cross (get it?) at all that crucifixion imagery, or find myself wanting to do “the wave” for the fish. But last night I woke with an old man’s prostate/bladder and had to pee for the third time, and there, in the bathtub, the marlin was sloshing in a sea of its own blood, and the mako sharks were tearing at the flesh, and the only harpoon I could find was the plunger kept beside the toilet.  I shouted for my wife, and we battled together toward morning, while the marlin was reduced inexorably to a skeleton.  Then finally, in early light, exhausted, we gave up and sat for a time at the kitchen table, gnawing at the sawdust of our bran cereal, fumbling for our reading glasses and lifting the newspaper, and watching our cat hunting an ant beneath the table, like a lion on a beach. 









Doug Ramspeck is the author of six poetry collections and one collection of short stories.  His most recent book, Black Flowers (2018), is published by LSU Press.  Four books have received awards: The Owl That Carries Us Away (G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction), Original Bodies (Michael Waters Poetry Prize), Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize for Poetry).  Individual poems have appeared in journals that include The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, Slate, and The Georgia Review.  He is a two-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.  A professor at The Ohio State University at Lima, Doug teaches creative writing.