The noise of fishmongers—lifting
their voices to the rafters, each one
trying to out yell the other in prideful
pitches—will have faded. Only scents
of sea-wet wooden bins filled
with catch of the day: mackerel,
fluke and flounder, grouper, snapper
and mullet—iced down, remain
in memory. And the hanging gaffs,
and the steel pans—lead-colored,
galvanized, curved to cradle the purchase
by a modestly dressed woman, her straw
basket threaded through by her left arm,
flapped open. Her mottled purse
—seashell décor—slung over the other
She studied the fish: black-shiny eyes,
clear, and the full incarnadine gills,
both testifying to freshness. The crisp
smell of sea’s salt infusing each of them.
For a small fee, he prepared the fish,
her shawl protecting her hair from the pearly
scales; then he wrapped the fish in newspaper
—head and tail left intact.
She’s probably thinking about the meal
while walking home: She will perfume
the fish with bouquet garni, steep it
in freshly made bouillon & chardonnay
flavored with fenugreek and spiced
with onion tops; golden peppers. Flecks
of saffron blossom the broth; threads
bleed their scarlet essence.
She’ll tell her husband not to eat
the dark flesh running down the dorsal
fin of the bluefish because it is bitter.
She doesn’t even like fish,
but she loves him. Johnny
Coltrane’s jazz beats will titillate
air with the flicker of candlelight,
wax efflux ribboning down the sides
of the slender candle. She’ll kiss
him as she ladles broth over rice.
He’ll kiss her back while the fish
will simply stare in approval.
John C. Mannone has work in the North Dakota Quarterly, Le Menteur, 2020 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, and others. He won the Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and others.
For more, see his website.