Ode to Sardines -
On the closing of the last sardine plant, Prospect Harbor, Maine
April 16, 2010
The fisherman clad in foul weather gear
towering over the plant's main entrance can fish on e-bay when the doors shutter,
when the last hundred factory workers
file to the unemployment office
instead of onto assembly lines.
Generations of women with hairnets,
wool sweaters and rubber gloves packed thousands
of fish a day, in the predictable sardine can, 3.75 ounces.
Lift Ring to Rim, Pull Back. Inside silver
skinned and iridescent, delectable
morsels, headless, thin-spined, swimming in oil.
My mother and I ate them with saltines;
no one else in the family could bear the smell.
We'd lunch separately at the kitchen table,
savoring each oily bite, licking our fingers clean.
Two cans for a dollar then, when ships hauled
herring by the ton, before people ate more
than oceans could produce, before fishing
regulations put limits on the catch
so sardines don't go the way of cod,
of salmon, of the whale now in museums.
Now if we find sardines they'll be shipped
from Mexico, or from Canada, if
we have any sardines left to eat, if
we have any fish left to eat, if
we have any fish.
from her book "Compass Rose"