Toucan are real- David Lohrey

That was it. I wasn’t able to be free,
wasn’t prepared to carry the load, not entirely.
I was too young. And nobody took up the slack.
Absolutely not, so I drifted away. I paddled away,
down to a less vibrant part of the river and dropped
my line where there were no fish.


This can happen. One is left to fish without bait.
The water is torn by passing boats. The noise scares
some, but not the piranha. They’re not so easily
fooled. They take the bait but not the hook. They bite with care.
They eat around the hook. And you wait in the black water
all day or for years, hoping for a break.


You sit in a boat that’s not moving. You sit in the shade with the jungle
behind you. Say what you will, the Amazon is not the Mississippi.
It may be long and merry, but it is not muddy or murky. It’s sleek
and shiny like a child’s string of licorice, black pearls, a blend
of whiskey and coffee. The Amazon glistens. Not brackish, it laps
at the cashew groves in a hue, something like copper.


Piranha, remember, are carnivores, like hyena and humans.
They swim in schools crowding and jostling like kids at dismissal.
They assemble just beneath the surface which looks as flat as
a classroom blackboard. They don’t hunt alone as sharks do,
circling for attack; the school moves as one. They crowd the depths,
massed and swarming, hysterically, like disturbed bees.


The same as little boys, they can’t stand to be left behind.
Once they smell blood, they make their move, attacking as a gang
of young thugs, delivering blows and landing punches. They
run in vicious packs like their cousins of the forest, wolves.
You watch the toucan flying above. You whistle. You wave
and the people wave back. “I have friends.”


You wait. You watch. You look. You listen, with the piranha
churning beneath you. The water is not green or brown like mud.
The water is black like a samurai’s topknot or a hearse leading an
Italian funeral. It reminds me of the entrance to the Baglioni
in Rome, only you won’t find a hotel like that where I am.
One learns to survive. The tiny flesh-eaters feast without anger.





David Lohrey graduated from UC, Berkeley. David’s plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and in Canada. His poetry can be found in New Orleans Review (US), Tuck Magazine (UK), Expanded Field Journal (Netherlands), and Dodging the Rain (Ireland). His fiction can be read online at The Broke Bohemian, Terror House, and Literally Stories. David’s The Other Is Oneself, a study of 20th century American and South African novelists, was published in 2017 in Germany.  Machiavelli’s Backyard, his collection of poetry, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers. He lives in Tokyo.


“The world is everything that is the case.” ― Wittgenstein Ludwig 
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