If Marc Chagall’s father had hauled fish
in Mississippi instead of Vitebsk,
it would be mullet winging over rooftops—
mullet, on violin—rooster and mullet,
mullet and goat. Chagall saw
the wonder of what sustains us: how one
can scavenge the bottom and still
rise, without apology,
by the silvered dozen. In a chapel
of mullet-paned glass we would gather
to watch each fish relay the baton
of its body from wave to wave,
across a marathon of hunger.
The body, fried, cradled in grits.
The body, smoked and lacquered in cane.
When casting nets to the Gulf,
who are we to judge terms of grace?
We save the gizzard, the star-white milt.
The bridal roe, on our tongues,
bursts with the promise of morning.
Sandra Beasley is the author of three poetry collections–Count the Waves, forthcoming in June from W. W. Norton; I Was the Jukebox; and Theories of Falling–as well as a memoir, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life. Photo by Richard Bickel.