Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kendall Merriam poem

Kendall Merriam, native of Rockland Maine where he is currently the official poet laureate, sends this poem:

Ode to Polish Sardine Packers

There is a hell of an easterly
rubbing the point across from me
with dedicated whitecaps
last night I snuck downstairs
and ate a can of King Oscar's finest
two layers, smoked, packed in Poland
my darling country
I had the privilege of working
in Holmes Packing just before college
a minor lesson in hell
hot steaming work, the smell of mustard
and fish steamed into my clothing
the herring much larger than the brisling
you deal with all the time
how do you do such fine hand work?
with the olive oil bath
in each can
my friend Woody Post swears by them
and he has known sardines all his life
used thousands over a lifetime
of baiting up lobster traps
within the past year
the last packing plant in Maine closed
where there used to be dozens
I know the Baltic is dead
do yours come from the North Sea
a place of storms and danger
to hold up some former King of Norway
they have a lovely secret, smokey taste
eaten straight from the can
last summer Gary and Karin
hosted a celebration
of this essence of ocean
in Belfast (Maine)
giving the fish its due
considering the millions
that have gone to human bellies
after the invention of weirs
and purse seiners
some of the slave islands
depended on them to
get the sugarcane harvest out
now those passing through Poland
sell for almost $3.00
for 3.75 ounces
and are devoured in three minutes
are truffles more than this?
Poland's economy has recovered
now, in part, due to brislings
isn't that such a lovely word
from the Polish language?

Kendall Merriam
January 10, 2011