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S E P T E M B E R   1 9 9 5

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A DISPLAY OF MACKEREL

by Mark Doty


audioear picture Hear Mark Doty read this poem (in RealAudio).

(For help, see a note about the audio.)

Also by Mark Doty:
The Embrace (1997)
Long Point Light (1994)


Go to:
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They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,
which divide the scales'
radiant sections

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soap-bubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
--nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they're all exact expressions
of the one soul,
each a perfect fulfillment

of heaven's template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler's
made uncountable examples
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before;
a cosmos of champleve.

Suppose we could iridesce,
like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe

of shimmer--would you want
to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed

to be lost? They'd prefer,
plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even on ice

they seem to be bolting
forward, heedless of stasis.
They don't care they're dead

and nearly frozen,
just as, presumably,
they didn't care that they were living:

all, all for all,
the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,

in which no verb is singular,
or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,

which is the price of gleaming.


Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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