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  • We Eat Cold Eels and Think Distant Thoughts
  • Danielle Legros Georges (bio)

Said American boxer Jack Johnson, glistening like a fish,      To the newsman who asked him why white            Women were drawn to black men, like him.

What is it like to eat cold eels and think distant thoughts?      What is it like to be a black man who eats cold eels            And thinks distant thoughts? What is it like to be

A black man who thinks to say we eat cold eels and think      Distant thoughts to a white reporter, in early-1900s America,            Who wishes to reduce him to meat, to red, to sexual.

Once in the Chicago Aquarium, a long time ago,      I met an eel I was told by the label on his large            Tank weighed 53 pounds, and was 100 years old.

It looked at me with such a fierce intelligence through the glass      And silty water of its address—its grey bald head almost human,            Its two lidless eyes, its small nose holes; and instead of a body

Below its head, no body but a tail of fluid form, one great muscle      Behind ears that were not ears, but also holes. Its whole body            Beating a slow chilled rhythm that kept it afloat.

And a cool terror shot through me, as it watched me watch it,      As it followed me through the liquid wall that split our worlds,            And separated our species. [End Page 110]

Danielle Legros Georges

Danielle Legros Georges is a Boston-based poet and writer with interests in Haitian and African American art, culture, and history. She is currently translating from French the poems of Haitian writer Ida Faubert. She teaches at Lesley University. Email:



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