First is the coolness of the air
as though ice filling the metal tanks
had sublimed, then the feel of sawdust
underfoot, the crumbling touch of a path through the woods.
It is a small store, with a fried-food takeout counter
and a long case of hake, sole, salmon, shrimp, haddock.
A red-headed, red-bearded man slaps
his rubber claw-like mitts against each other,
scrapes clean the wooden cutting board
and turns to you, bowing.
He brandishes like a baton a pitted blade.
You deliberate, nod like an empress conferring honor,
at a whole pollock. Sun
through a small window polishes its scales
which shine like new nickels.
With both large mitts he delivers it
to his chopping block in the sunlight.
The ceremony is certain with authority.
What remains are fine white corrugated layers,
clean white flesh. With his animal's paws
he proffers the gift.