Oyster River Seafood Market

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.

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