Lament of the Mola
By Tierney Thys

In Monterey Bay,
There’s a fish that some say
Lies flat on its side like a raft
And strange though it be
You should all come to see
This fish with a fore but no aft.

The trip to the bay
Is often one way,
For this fish meets a terrible plight.
It’s hurled through the air
Launched by sea lions unfair,
Who rip off its fins with delight.
A hideous sight,
It puts up a fight
And tries to escape with a flap.
More often than not,
It’s easily caught
And seagulls move in for the scrap.
So if ever you glance
At this fish just by chance,
Please wish to it all of your best.
For though it is cute
The point, it is moot,
Its life in this bay is not blessed.

Mola mola
By Julie Fiedler

My first sight came
when it appeared on the surging horizon
a small upright sail,
a fin lighter grey
than the leaden water,
darker than the gutted battleship of sky
overturned to cover us.
The point was too blunt,
too trackless,
not a shark but
a lost rudder rolled skyward
that did not go back underwater
for breath or direction.
My parents already knew—
Mola mola, order Plectognathi,
ocean sunfish.
It was easy to approach,
a bookmark jutting from the ocean,
but harder to grasp—
a shiny, fiberglass keel
flaring down beneath the surface
to a seven-foot disk of dolphin flesh:
Wavery, pale-edged,
no tail, just a rounded fringy skin skirt,
two side fins like frozen oars.
Only one eye gazed up at me,
human, startled,
white, a grey iris, a black 8-ball pupil
lost in a pocket,
stiff gills,
the mouth a wan, rubber-lipped O.
My father, capable of puncturing small
sharks until they spun homeward
trailing clouds of blood and milk,
of beheading puffins huddled
alongside his boat for bait,
of braining flounders
with his stainless revolver,
wanted no part of this monster—
it might come alive,
sunfish on his deck,
bash the boat to bits
and abandon him to the deep.
But its eye, gazing up,
my eye, knew otherwise.
it was a vehicle, a submarine,
upright in the deepest seas
rolling like a silver dollar
with finny spokes,
an underwater crystal ball of sight.
Bright minnows skirt us,
chain reactions of krill waver aside,
the universe shifts with our movement.
We live invisibly, wait
to bask in the sun,
to see the world transformed.
our eyes had strained for a lifetime to see light.
I was ready to change boats in midstream:
scramble aboard that rubber raft,
grip the stunted sail,
my wakened body
joined to its floating head,
drifting away
until my parent’s skulls
were an umlaut
on the horizon.




National Geographic Committee

Research and Exploration

Monterey Bay

Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute

The Lindbergh Foundation

AAAS-Women's International Science Collaboration

Smithsonian Visiting Research Fellowship

University of South Florida, Tampa

Census of Marine Life

Pleger Institute of Marine Science (PIER)

email: info@oceansunfish.org

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