Saturday, October 2, 2010
Salt Cod Soul
How old is that fish smell that stains the boards of your old shack,
that salts itself on your forehead, stings your eyes
and swims in your blood? Was it pickled in wood traps
drying in the sun with their sea urchin freight
and their rotting crabs? They were always breaking, and you
were never without spare lath and a hammer and nail.
Was it there before haulers drew the warp
swiftly through your glove, back when you
hauled by hand from a dory at the harbor's edge
and sold three pound lobsters to the canneries - and later
when they filled three pound cans with half-pound bugs?
And was it the same when all the canneries closed?
Is the taste the same as sailing with seiners
on silken schooners beside the mackerel shoal,
till you spring at once to the seine boat, stealthily
circle the shoal, then draw the purse string shut -
fifty barrels of mackerel at a time,
though you ate dried cod and pickles for a month?
And on your way home with a bushel of salted herring
bungied in the back of your black, Dodge Ram
for another day at sea... what sweet smell
mingles with your wake and fills forgotten dreams.
settles like the smoke from your old wood stove
and rings in your ear like the call of the running tide?