Poetry is fundamental like raw fish.
Not everyone likes it, but for those
who do partake there are benefits,
not all of which are about beauty
and music and elegance of thought.
Whenever I take a bite of raw fish
I feel like I’m not just feeding my face,
but my soul as well, though maybe
fundamental isn’t quite the right word.
I used to smoke, and when I breathed it in
I felt a lifting and a settling at the same time.
Whenever I read a poem my soul does
a flip or a kick, though now and then
it just slumps over, full but unsatisfied.
I am lucky to have never eaten bad sushi,
though I have at times read bad poetry
or written bad grocery lists that I mistook
for poetry, although what’s bad in poetry
is sometimes open to debate, and when
a grocery list is bad you close the door
to the refrigerator as an unshakable feeling
of disappointment comes over you.
Some people get poetry, some people don’t;
a woman I worked with who asked what
earthquake shoes were didn’t, another
who walked on Independence Avenue
on her lunch hour carrying her parasol and
teddy bear got it so much it was scary.
Sometimes we all get along, other times
we do battle like savages along the curves
of a muddy river, our prerequisites
the two horses that ride off to different
ends of the sunset. I once kept my
shoes next to where you stored your oats,
and the next fish I caught I laid in the fridge
next to your light pilsner beer. Then
once upon a time, like the Hatfields and
the McCoys swimming side by side
at the neighborhood pool, you got out,
dried yourself off with a big old towel,
looked me straight in what are sometimes
called my almond eyes and said, “It’s on.”
Photograph by Jose Padua