Thursday, October 05, 2006

Doty's Mackerel

The Stop n Shop in Orleans
displays its mackerel
as perfectly the same as

they’ve always been
yet folk seem to approach
this counter from the shellfish end

or the middle where the salmon
glitter, somehow avoiding the left
end without knowing why

just pointing towards it when
they want mackerel as if that end’s
off-limits, an altar or a work of art,

revered. The cognoscenti only
buy on certain days, aware
of how the gleam can

fade, the blood-rimmed eye
tire under the lights, weary of
the stares of bargain hunters

chasing reductions, counting
their toes. Just once, a poet
held this hallowed ground,

stood where no one ever stands,
hushed by these black-barred
clones. Someone called security

though nobody knew who.
But everybody said you just
don’t stare at fish for an hour

unless you’re an accomplice,
a unibomber’s mate or a
look-out for a mass heist

about to hit 24 checkouts
simultaneously. No,
fishwatching is a dead giveaway,

it shows you have a real
problem with the world view
of mackerel. As store guards

shouted he moved away
from the counter; as
they aimed their guns

he drew a pen from his
inside pocket, smiling,
oblivious.

On the back of an
old envelope he wrote the words
he had been waiting for

all summer, words that
captured oil on water,
that exalted a uniformity.


First published in iota.

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