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“Don’t they just gleam?” the lid is off
the cooler and tongs rake the ice away,
the flecks are sparkling glints, the speckles shine
“Is it? What? Eight? No, nine. Nine days til Spring.”
His canopy’s gone, clouds shift past streaming blue
“See that?” he points, “The sun’s over the buildings—
I haven’t seen that once this year.” He beams
Behind his moustache, bushy head eclipsed
Suddenly, for just a moment, roundly framed,
As if his own tent poled against the sky.
He tells me things: the wood of the sign clatters.
I ask about death, “You know, killing them,”
Because there’s hundreds (the restaurants wanting more)
“I use a stick.” His hand rings a bell midair,
“Just like that—bok. The night before.” He says.
He tells me things—that he feels cruel doing it,
The night before, late, ten or so, his girl
Inside sliding the gutter knife on stone.
“Sharp work is good work,” telling her always
so she remembers well when the entrails ooze—
Hot oil, the cast iron untouchable,
My tongs are firm on flesh, the skin
Can slide in the oil now bright and shiny black
(when seasoning it slips from my grasp, the skin
as though the body sneezes from defense)
Now splattering and biting stray fingers
Once flipped the eye is what cooks first, opaque
And milky in the pan (I saw it clear,
Among the others and buried deep, and again
When clenching fast, it sliding, me checking
Entangled in inspection, seeking marks
In what isn’t head, and isn’t brow, the eye
The only pairing found between us.)
Once cooked the knife is nothing for the flesh.
We feed the head to the cat, and wait to see—
“He’s going for it!”
“What? Oh, stop it. Don’t.”
“Why?” Now he licks the gills—the tongue hairs scrape.
“He doesn’t care. Do you now, puss?” He purrs.
He holds his head down (knife ready, the girl
Gets up on her stool, the first one waiting there.
She looks in the window, or, more, at window glass
Behind her one full cooler sits, beside
The fish, the smooth flesh bumpless from the blow—)
No bruise, no mark, no anything, just flesh,
It curves back, up—a graceful line, a prow
Or hull, I think, and run my hand the length
The flaps or pink meat curling in as I do.
The paw’s claws stay retracted, he’s pinned
It good. He crunches, his head to one side,
The jaws work wetly, tilted and borne down.
“It’s like he’s watching me.”
“It’s you. You watch.”
The tails’ long gone from the bowl, the spines devoured
I watch the cat’s neck bulge to swallow hard,
“Too much.” I tell him, for nothing, and laugh.
“Too much.” The bones absorb into his gut.
I chew like a masticator but they find
Their way in, jabbing down the hatchway slow.
We both can pass these hooks (I don’t know how)
And use them like to like, as bones for bones.
I close my eyes and let the cloud shapes come.
The Indian put to rest next to the gourd.
6 days ago