new zealand electronic poetry centre


James Norcliffe

Fugacity 05
Online Poetry Anthology


fish salad at Latinos

it was a careful balancing act
the empty wine glass
a fulcrum for the fork
the knife and the lateral spoon

the piazza had been full
first of hatred salsa-sharp
and pungent and then of
cheers for the Praetorian Guard

you smile and with your finger
you set the fork rocking
on its fragile axis and it tilts
between hate and bombast

it seems for a moment
that we do have a choice
so I take it and reach forward
to still the movement

but still the memory crawls
on bleeding knees through
hacked hair and cobblestones
and the laughter at the next table

can do nothing to conceal
the pendulous breasts sagging
in the dust and mortification
the shredded short and spittle

until the waiter brings the plate
of fish blanched by lemon juice
then as he pours the soothing wine
you smile again as if at something
almost forgotten before replacing
the fork and knife retrieving
 your spoon and sipping it
deep into the clarity of your soup


look out from Rabbit Island
see the scallop basket
slipping water like
a half-filled groyne

see beyond the sand-hills
the mast of a beached
scow unnaturally
still in the half-light

if you drop your fan
its shell-like clatter
will spill out and split
like a spoilt secret

so listen to the cowrie
put its porcelain labia
to your ear and there
is its intimate whisper

slip the white flesh
into your mouth
the orange cowl, too
close your mouth: swallow

glance up at the clouds  
you might say the sky
is your slippery oyster
you might say love
is about to unfasten its
mother-of-pearl buttons

                        you could say
there is a dark front
coming in from the south
and it will probably rain

you should then draw
your cape about you
to tell the world
you are a pilgrim

with your heart
on your sleeve
a scallop shell
at your breast

Last updated 25 April, 2005