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What Begins

October 17, 2007

To catch a fish, breathe in the firmament,
Consider finality before you begin
Threading fly on thin filament.
Then find a seam where life slides
From one slippery dream to the next and cast
Lightly, with the current, never splash.

Inch your line out in a silvery arc,
Sinuous as love doubling back on itself,
And lay it fine on the shimmering drift
Where it listens for the swift nip of a question — a mere
Twitch between fingers — you must answer.

No time for doubt, pull steadily, pull,
Pull, keeping tension constant — spattering drops,
Splitting wave, breaking light, the slap
Of sudden weight on the gritty shore,
Where you must heft a rough stone
Without hesitation in one well-placed, final thud.


Eating a fish is not like catching a fish.
This is the brutal grace of hunger.
This is getting close to the bone, into the teeth.

With the fine blade of your knife, slit the
Silken underbelly straight
From anus to jaw and, as the scent
Pricks your nostrils, slide your finger in
Below the spine and strip the body’s cavity empty
Of its soft parts, washing it clean of blood.

Now, you may choose to fill a pan with
Butter and garlic, or clean bark
From a lean, green stick and thread the body
Onto its narrow bier to roast over coals.
But wait for the tail to curl and the flesh to sing
Before your teeth sink in, before swallowing what begins to be you.

by MB Whitaker

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  1. October 18, 2007 at 10:22 am

    You put me right there with you. Loved this poem. Can taste the fish becoming me!

  2. October 20, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    This exquisite poem reminds me why I like poetry. Thanks for it.

  3. rdl
    October 21, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Nice, very nice!!

  4. October 24, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Lovely poem, enjoyed it.

  5. May 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Makes me think about what we pay in order to eat. And what others pay in order for us to eat.

    Hey MB, I lost your email address. Drop me a line. I’m blogging again.


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