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Contributor Series 7: The Confessional Diary of Bone, How to Clean a Fish


12.29.10 Posted in Contributor Series 7, words to linger on by

Contributor Series 7: The Confessional Diary of Bone
How to Clean a Fish

By Ray Sharp

Mark 1:17–“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

We’ll assume you know all about where to fish,
How to bait the hook, how to cast the line,
How to set the hook and play the fish
Until it tires and you reel it into your grasp.

How to hold tight the slippery thing
And remove the hook with pliers.
How to place it in the bucket or fix it
To the stringer with the rest of your catch.

It comes now time to clean the fish
And make it ready to eat, for as Jesus said,
“Man does not live on bread alone”
And surely Peter, the fisher of Galilee

Heard Him say “but on every word
That comes from the mouth of God”
And repeated these lines as he cast
His net and gutted and filleted his catch

With a sharp knife and a quick, steady hand.
Turn over the fish and plunge the knife
Into the anus and slice forward
To the belly fin under the gills

And pull out the organs and rinse clean
The gutted body. No angel will intercede.
Do not flinch nor tarry, for God gave man
Dominion over the fish of the sea.

It is best to scrape away the scales,
Iridescent gems that glitter in sunlit water
But quickly dull in the hard dry air
While life drains away as it must.

Next remove the head of the fish
By slicing around the top of the spine
And severing the neck with hard whack
Of the palm on the back of the blade.

The head can be saved to make stock
But remove the gills which are bitter to taste.
The last step is to fillet the fish, to separate
The spine and ribs from the tender flesh.

Beginning at the tail, the corpse laid flat,
Cut along the back, knifeback to belly,
Sharp edge cutting toward the head,
Pulling the pink meat from ashen bone

And then bone and ribs from what remains
So you are holding the clean bare frame
That once game form, with fin and tail,
To the secret spirit shape of man.

Death is a bucket of fish guts
That stinks in the sun and draws flies.
Death is a sharp thin bone
That catches in my throat and scratches.

But plant a dead fish in the ground
As Tisquantum taught the Pilgrims to do
And it will fertilize the maize and squash,
And then, how your garden will grow!


Ray’s poem Fission appeared at vox poetica in October as part of Contributor Series 6: A Currency of Words.




2 Responses to “Contributor Series 7: The Confessional Diary of Bone, How to Clean a Fish”

  1. I now dub thee Ray “Stephen King” Sharp.
    Very interesting poem. I read it twice.
    :)

  2. bobbie troy says:

    A lot to think about. Many undertones.