In the Subtropical Convergence Zone
of the southern Sargasso, over the edge of the Nares Abyssal,
south-east of the Bermuda Ridge, snow is rising
in the water column from fifteen hundred feet.
Somewhere in Tethys’ salty darkness,
in spurts of milt and billowing roe, eels
are birthing their posterity, a spore-storm of eggs
in uncountable centillions, each buoyed
on its micron of oil. The embryos float
in the Miocene water like dust motes
caught in a shaft of light, and ascending
through the photocline, join the thermonuclear
microplankton of the drifting epipelagic.
In the eighteen-degree water, hatching,
it is hypothesised, takes place after two days
of embryonic growth, after which emerges
the pinhead imago—veined, elongate,
a leaf of transparent white willow—
leptocephalus, the larval form of anguilla,
absorbing its yolk-sac for ten or twelve days,
lengthening daily by micrometres,
gaining weight daily in microgrammes,
until a fortnight after hatching, the size
of a sand-grain or emphatic full-stop,
it unhinges its tiny, gaping jaws,
fangs half as long as its head, and hunts
in the eutrophic blizzard, seizing diatoms,
dinoflagellates, polyethylene microbeads,
fuelling-up for the thirty-month long haul,
Sargasso to the Biscay Abyssal.
This is the opening section of The European Eel, a book-length poem by Steve Ely, published by Longbarrow Press as an 80-page hardback, with illustrations by award-winning artist P.R. Ruby. You can order the book securely by clicking on the relevant PayPal button below.
The European Eel
More than 60 previous Featured Poems can be accessed via this index (many of these pages also contain audio recordings and short films).