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Issue 18

Poetry » Mark Belair »


Crushed Ice

The old, downtown fish shop stands
closed, and not just for the day, it seems:

the rolled-paper dispenser empty, the shiny knife rack stripped,
the soggy sawdust unswept and, of course, no spread of fish.

Yet the raked steel display where the day’s catch
would lay arrayed holds a coat of fresh, crushed

ice, cleanly graded, its crisp presence absurd but
there it is, someone’s careful handiwork, perhaps of

the laborer in rubber boots always there, a gnarled man
not knowledgeable and skilled like the countermen but

a simple man holding down a simple job
he has probably worked for decades, so

ancient is this shop; a job he—unfit for much else?—
may have worked to the exclusion of all else; a job

the loss of which may mean the end of his working life;
a ruination he replays each day by spreading ice as if to

smooth—before the storefront holds yet another boutique—
his soft, chilled, unfashionable soul.

The Master of Ceremonies

The winter wind
gusts from behind me,
fat snowflakes overtaking
my walking pace and twirling on
the pavement ahead like circus artists
flying free of the trapeze and tumbling while
more snowflakes collide in comic crosswinds like clowns
scattering from a swarm of snarling-wild-animal-snow-swirls,
the whole snow circus procession heralding the splendid arrival of
me, the Master of Ceremonies, who enters waving to the adoring crowd,
its snowflake applause covering me head to foot, a cloak of silliness-appropriated
snowflakes that—as I stamp indoors, remove my boots, hang up my coat, brew tea,
and resume my responsible routine—melt, each one, like boys, once unique, they say.