Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SCHOOLS OF LITTLE FISH, by MARVIN BELL



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SCHOOLS OF LITTLE FISH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Falling in snow beyond the window
Last Line: Until you can carry your brains in your open hands
Subject(s): Film (Photography); Fish & Fishing; Photography & Photographers; Anglers


falling in snow beyond the window,
in bread breaking in cracks cut by steam,
because you can't snap your fingers and hold a pencil
even if today you are the best poet in the house.
No one, no one is around to see you stamp on your brain.
No one can swear that the loaf was whole to begin with
when the invisible knife that remained in the ashes
sliced through the bread no longer in the oven.
How do these things happen? How do fish
enter the flakes of the snow? How do raindrops
house all the components of a man or a woman?
No one knows, no one is small enough to see it.

I live in a nation that can saw into the Yukon,
that owns the art to rescue whales and wolves
but is helpless before the rat that lives in the street
among the homeless, and cannot bring itself
to leave Central America. It has learned the lesson
of the schools of little fish, and its armies travel
in raindrops, in the empty chambers of white bread,
in steam opaquing the pane of a window in winter.
Because no one can hold a pencil and snap his fingers,
there are no records, just misprints in the papers
and smudges in the crowd on photographs where
there was trouble. View the photo the day of repression.
And what will you say of it? Here is the flat photo.
The image lies in a thin layer of emulsion.
If you write on it, the picture rubs off. If you tell,
it is thin words, blood carried by abstract breezes.

You must try to absorb the barbed wire left behind
now used to hang laundry, the tank and propeller
and other trophies of war -- extra rice, extra beans.
Even if today you are the best poet around,
you must first invite the barbs to penetrate your skin,
there to wring their wire roses in your blood.
And you must wait until the propeller begins to spin
its way into your skull, clearing the chambers as it turns.
And you must wait for the little tanks to start up
in the ghostly shape of lead gasses rising. Not ready
when needed, now you must not come all the way home
until you can carry your brains in your open hands.


Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org




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