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A Plateful of Pathos


(Image courtesy of http://images.jupiterimages.com)

This morning, while cleaning my room, I came across a Billy Collins poem I tore out of the New York Times Magazine a few months ago. It's called "The Fish."

I don't remember exactly when I first saw it. It's dated November 25, 2007, but with my luck, I probably discovered it on a Lenten Friday after chowing down my own piscatorial supper.

Collins, whose images are so crisp, knows just how to stir the Italian guilt already ingrained in me. And he does it in the simplest yet wittiest way.

Let's just say I didn't eat at Red Lobster for a while.




"The Fish"
By Billy Collins

(courtesy of The New York Times Magazine, November 25, 2007)

As soon as the elderly waiter
placed before me the fish I had ordered,
it began to stare up at me
with its one flat, iridescent eye.

I feel sorry for you, it seemed to say,
eating alone in this awful restaurant
bathed in such unkindly light
and surrounded by these dreadful murals of Sicily.

And I feel sorry for you, too —
yanked from the sea and now lying dead
next to some boiled potatoes in Pittsburgh —
I said back to the fish as I raised my fork.

And thus my dinner in an unfamiliar city
with its rivers and lighted bridges
was graced not only with chilled wine
and lemon slices but with compassion and sorrow

even after the waiter removed my plate
with the head of the fish still staring
and the barrel vault of its delicate bones
terribly exposed, save for a shroud of parsley.



See what I mean?


For the first time, I thought about the brief emotional bond between man and ichthyoid. I actually got a little lump in my throat. Am I that pathetic?

Oh yeah, and to stick the knife in even further, the Times includes an absolutely divine recipe for whole roasted sea bass with winter vegetables. After you read the poem and recipe, you won't know whether to leave the table with guilt or with gusto.

P.S. Billy Collins is a genius. Please read some of his stuff.



;) Holly

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