Work

(from Mass for the Grace of a Happy Death)

To lift the flesh
from the fine sheer bone
so the fish’s body fell
back into an image of fish,
head and fin joined
in a wicked mockery
of wholeness─that
was one genius of his hands
that never left with age
or gout or whiskey, and one
measure of a man he passed
to me, leaving me his black knife
which he’d honed to a rib
on oil and stone and showing
me the lines of the body
one follows, drawing the blade
like a feather over skin,
lifting the pearl of binding scales
and opening the shining harvest
of fish, meat for one hunger
and for another: in the sweat
of his face, his right to travel
in that vanishing, uncomplicated
world of men where he bid me
to follow with grace and anger,
showed me the proper silence
of labor, how to hold my mouth
shut with the exact insurgent
tuck of lip, how he wanted me
to glare back, as he did, into
the hard light of abundance
and tear the bread from any
long task we had set before us.

 

Another Poem from Mass for the Grace of a Happy Death:

Hitch