At the Supermarket/The Fish

At the Supermarket

By Jen Grieshaber (American; b 1976 – )

I stopped in the fruit section
and picked up a banana. Anxious
shoppers whizzed by, sending
shivers of refrigerated air over
my arms. Other more fastidious
shoppers paused to mull over
the weeks selection of produce.
In the cold glare of the
fluorescent bulb, the banana
withered. Its once creamy skin
was now a mottled brown
stem no longer upright.
Instead, it hung limply to
one side, half exposing  a
mushy brown tip. The sticker,
a proud statue symbol and
ticket to the check out lane,
hung tattered and illegible.
I saw near the bottom of this
age old calcium carrier, a
tiny black bug (the kind with
a crunchy shell) crawl around
and poke his head into the peel –
sucking precious life for his
own, selfish purposes.
And around the store, people
poked and grabbed, getting
the most for their money,
rifling through the apples
for the biggest, shuffling
around boxes, and cans and
bags, ripping and nibbling
and weighing. In the
midst of this falsely-lit
supermarket I stood –
with my stubborn cart,
one wheel turned inside out –
and the banana was soft lead
in my hands. Picturing
its journey to America from
some native island,
I smiled as I imagined
all the banana had seen.
And I gingerly laid
that banana in my card,
between the carrots
and lettuce.

 

This is a poem I wrote in high school, as part of the capstone assignment my senior year. I emulated several of the poets that we studied, creating my own works. This was modeled after Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish”

The Fish

Elizabeth Bishop1911 – 1979

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

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