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Callaloo 25.3 (2002) 732-733
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The Little Speech
Michael S. Collins
There is a great catch dying in the nets.
Now squatting in the bow, the men
grin and curse over their card game, betting
money I haven't paid yet. But who can blame them?
Chance is the muse out here. . . .
Sometimes I dream I'm at a table,
the sea on the other side, and fate the dealer,
in cahoots with the sea. . . .And I wake up
grinning. . . .
For here they come now,
across the water—the voices of customers! Their souls
clink like cash in their pockets:
their houses cluster on the islands
like shore birds!
The boat rides shoreward on the tide.
Relax. Rehearse the little speech:
'Truly . . . a page from the book of miracles. . . .
the sea beside itself. . . . the nets heavier than teams of horses,
boiling with fish. . . see, they glitter in the sun,
like armies. . . fat man, undo a trouser button,
the feast comes. . . . a fine catch, ladies. . . .
you yourself can see. . . ."
On shore that's how I like to get the selling started
in my own stall. I like to get them caught
up in the story, to make my voice the bait
for a school of wallets, just so. . . .
But truly, profit, if it is my flesh, is not my blood.
I, too, plan expeditions to happiness.
I too gnaw time's net. A salesman
With sharp teeth. Ha! And soft eyes. [End Page 732]
And here is a wonder: you come to my stall,
your basket over your arm, and haggle
over my fish for a good half-hour.
I would give them to you. . . .
But how to say it? I stutter and grow silent.
Only a virtuoso can speak the heart. . . .
Ah! Light a candle for all that was.
In my arms you know me after all.
Michael S. Collins is an assistant professor of English at Texas A & M University in College Station. He has published poems, articles and reviews in a number of periodicals, including Callaloo, The New Leader, Parnassus, and Salamander.