Down at the port where the ribbons flow on a Friday night the pubs are crowded at five, the old skippers congregate, drifting greedily into their odd banter: who caught the most frightening fish, who came face to face with the deep in the eye of a giant squid, or barely escaped that battering from an angry blue whale. Imagine what else they go on about. Long time coming, storm cloud on the horizon, beneath the weather, then above it. Here come the mackerel, the herring, the scores of transatlantic cod. Once this place was loaded with sardines in wooden barrels and sailed from here across the world. The fish could be scooped up by almost any hand—they came from as far as Siberia followed by all the seagulls and one hundred years of frostbite. Take this very can, over one hundred years old, dented and rusted, the metals seep in, but the oil (imported from the Cretan islands) is still a thick emulsion and when you bite in, the salt crystals crackle on your tongue; and the sardines are soft yet firm, their skins have quietly braised in history, touched by cosmic background radiation.
All’s well with you, you say. I would hand you some fragments, some cold evidence, how they were herded onto the boats, searing in pain from cable burns, or those who died with a wire across their eyes, or the cut and scrape of their gills against cold steel; how they came from the other side of the planet to mate and spawn and breed where the most vital and vibrant river finds its source.
Marc Vincenz is an American-Swiss poet, fiction writer, translator, editor, and musician. He has published 20 collections of poetry, including more recently, The Little Book of Earthly Delights, A Brief Conversation with Consciousness, There Might Be a Moon or a Dog, and forthcoming in 2022, The Pearl Diver of Irunami (White Pine Press). His work has been published in The Nation, Ploughshares, Raritan, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, 3 AM, and World Literature Today. He is publisher and editor of MadHat Press and publisher of New American Writing.