Somewhere in the sea, a tuna had been blue-finning
along, content in the company of his glorious
scale-glistening Thunnini tribe. And even
if it didn’t have words for it, or any thought
with shape, the tuna can’t help but eye the baited hook
floating in liquid equilibrium, within such easy reach.
And I’m thinking of folks at the mayonnaise factory, too,
how they aim for the soft light at end of the workday,
tricking themselves into not tiring of jarring
the acrid slop into bottle after bottle. And there’s
the truck driver, too, alone in his long-haul rig,
delivering the cased condiment and canned fish
to this city deli where a young woman with tattoo sleeves
and a pierced tongue scoops the fish-slop onto a bulky roll,
cuts and wraps the sandwich and shoves it
with said pickle, chips, and napkins into a deli bag,
which at some point must have been breathing
the fecund air in a deep-rooted forest of quiet dignity.
And when she’s done, she turns to me, all business,
and says, Next.
I meet her eyes, then look at the menu,
hesitate long enough to be out of urban step again.
Come on, sweetie, she says. What’s your pleasure?
Stockbridge to Lee
Resting at the Mollyockett rest stop in western Maine.
I imagine Mother Theresa washing my feet.
I’m at a picnic table with a king-size plastic cup
filled with an amber inch of flat soda.
I imagine Einstein beside us at the picnic table,
asking me and Mother T, But what is this drink really?
What I know is what I wish I didn’t know: that, with this cup,
I can pull into any BK in the country and refill it for free.
It’s cheating, of course. But no one has stopped me yet.
No limits, no questions. All the sugar and caffeine and ice
to fuel one’s steady undoing. Mother Theresa asks me
where I’m traveling from and to. I say Stockbridge to Lee
by way of Maine, hoping she doesn’t slug me.
What I wish I didn’t know, I tell Einstein, is what I know:
the smell of rest-stop restrooms. How it triggers
memories of every hopeful journey leading to nowhere .
He tells me that no one rests. He writes a formula
on the picnic table. It explains relativity and why traffic yo-yos
and why some hunger for any kind of home and never find it.
His math begs a question: Is this living or is this
self-immolation? Mother Theresa dries my feet.
There you go, my child, she says, patting my knee.
Your feet look fantastic.
Good luck — and pray and play well.
And I do feel better. And I’ve always wanted
to play well. And the wish of good luck
always makes me smile.
Michael Brosnan’s most recent poetry book is The Sovereignty of the Accidental (Harbor Mountain Press, 2018). About the collection, Naomi Shihab Nye writes, “A stunning book.... Poems which stir language, memory, momentary intense awareness, to give us back the bracing joy of clear thinking.” His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Rattle, Confrontation, Borderlands, Prairie Schooner, Barrow Street, Poetry South, and New Letters. He’s also the author of Against the Current, a book on inner-city education that served as the basis for the award-winning documentary Accelerating America. He is the senior editor for the website Teaching While White and writes often on issues related to education and equity.