From the Archive: John B. Lee (CAROUSEL 16)

Staff/ July 20, 2020/ Poem


Drugging the Fishes

It seems
the things we flush
are drugging the fishes
in New York City, for instance
there’s enough Prozac
in the East River
to keep
the herring happy as housewives
in sitcoms all season
problem is — they’ve lost their
interest in spawning, so
if and when the males come-a-milting
(though they mostly come-a-tilting)
they keep their eggs
to themselves, their roe in sacks like bobbles
they’re so swim-dizzy
they’ve lost all desire
even the words ‘oviparous,
spontaneous myosis, external fertilization,
egg vent’
leave them cold-blooded …
even the dorsal-fin envy
has left them
as they swim
lost in giddy schools of stupefication
like what sprays
from waves on wet rocks in high winds.

Once when the seas
were full of children
and loneliness meant
any number under 100,000
when the cod
were flashing on water
like swathes of frothing moonlight
when the ships
were stuck in thrashings
their prows like ploughs in frosted furrows
when first arrivals
caught their buckets
heavy bellied with shivering silvers of hunger
before the boredom and the beauty
of the modern
more apothecary waters
set them sleeping
under scows of harbour garbage
where the gulls are singing
like hysterical castrati
practicing a sacred choral composition
from the recent genius of God.

John B. Lee is the Poet Laureate of Brantford, Ontario. A recipient of over sixty prestigious international awards for his writing, he is the winner of the $10,000 CBC Literary Award for Poetry and the only two-time recipient of the People’s Poetry Award. He has published over 50 books and is the editor of eleven anthologies. His work has appeared in over 500 publications and has been translated into four languages. His most recent book is Moths That Drink the Tears of Sleeping Birds (Black Moss Press, 2019).

Drugging the Fishes
appeared in CAROUSEL 16 (2004) — buy it here

Share this Post