Diane Seuss: "Maybe the Fishmonger, Who Hands over the Dead"




so tenderly or maybe the one rolling sushi wearing

a hairnet and a half smile or maybe no one, for I have held


hands with a stone, I have held hands with an orphaned

poplar tree whose leaves chattered like the milk teeth of a kid


left for dead in a woven basket, I have held the freckled,

sun-burnished face of the lily and stroked her with my palm,


my fingerprints overwhelmed by her rusty pollen, maybe

her, maybe the aproned fishmonger, who has held hands


with a boning knife and brushed away crushed ice

from the cloudy eye and rid the pinkish flesh of pin bones,


or no one, for when I was a girl I held my father’s cold

hand and he wore something like an apron, a cotton gown


fastened with bows at the back, a gown covered in blue

stars, and his black eyelashes splayed out like the open arms


of starfish, and oh he was sad, there was salt in his cloudy

eye, and something swam up into my throat and spawned


and flapped its great tail, so perhaps I’m adrift in a skiff

spiraling the hub of that tender sea, or maybe


the fishmonger, maybe the mute cashier, or no one,

or never, or the ancient bagger tattooed with an anchor.



Diane Seuss's latest poetry collection, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (2010), won the 2009 Juniper Prize for Poetry from the University of Massachusetts Press. Her recent work has appeared in Georgia Review, New Orleans Review, Hanging Loose, and Poetry.  She is Writer in Residence at Kalamazoo College.