Eating fish, choking on bones, dares, and grease   Leave a comment


I fear this is a so-what poem. Something reminded me of eating fish with fear. So-what?  But here it is anyway.

The Ordeal of Eating Fish

I hold the dead fish
feel the firmness of fin and tail
touch its eye on a dare from my brother
we clean fish on a board

I pull the spoon across the scales
as my dad does   against the grain       against the flow
against the smooth way

mother sets the table
with the usual poor people side dishes
radishes, salt and pepper, white bread stacked on a plate,
oleo, oleo, oleo chant little entertainers
Dale next door offers cucumbers and says
if he was any happier he’d be dead

not being seafaring people
whose children inhale the ways
of fish and the daily catchers of fish
and become accustomed to the usual smell of fishy gear
we know the smell of truck grease
and that stale beer smell when you tip a can from the pile
in the wheelbarrow and a drop of stink drips out
we know the feel of ball bearings across our palms
and the hot bright snap of welding sparks
that’ll make us blind if we look

I’d like to chance the colors of the welder’s arc
one last time

each bite of fish
another step on this dining tightrope
push the fish around the plate
the fish I scaled
the one whose eye I touched
I’ve not been blinded by watching welders
or backed over by a greasy truck
or died from dares

but fish days frighten mother
bones too many bones
to catch in small throats
worse than words attached to guts
that won’t come out or stay down
like fish on stringers

mother puts a slice of bread on each plate
theory is swallowed bite of bread
pushes a stuck bone down

but would it work
might I live with a bone
lodged crossways
only to eat soup and milk forever after

mother repeats the rules
watch for bones   pick them out
chew, chew, chew

dare I swallow

Mary Strong Jackson

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Posted March 7, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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