Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


A Pile of Fish

for Paul Otremba

Six in all, to be exact. I know it was a Tuesday 
     or Wednesday because the museum closes early
on those days. I almost wrote something 

     about the light being late—; the “late light”
is what I almost said, and you know how we 
     poets go on and on about the light and 

the wind and the dark, but that day the dark was still 
     far away swimming in the Pacific, and we had 
45 minutes to find Goya’s “Still Life with Bream” 

     before the doors closed. I’ve now forgotten 
three times the word Golden in the title of that painting
     —and I wish I could ask what you think 

that means. I see that color most often 
     these days when the cold, wet light of morning 
soaks my son’s curls and his already light 

     brown hair takes on the flash of fish fins
in moonlight. I read somewhere 
     that Goya never titled this painting, 

or the other eleven still lifes, so it’s just 
     as well because I like the Spanish title better.  
“Doradas” is simple, doesn’t point 

     out the obvious. Lately, I’ve been saying 
dorado so often in the song I sing 
     to my son, “O sol, sol, dorado sol 

no te escondes...” I felt lost 
     that day in the museum, but you knew 
where we were going having been there 

     so many times. The canvas was so small 
at 17 x 24 inches. I stood before it 
     lost in its beach of green sand and 

that silver surf cut with pink. 
     I stared while you circled the room 
like a curious cat. I took a step back, 

     and then with your hands in your pockets 
you said, No matter where we stand, 
     there’s always one fish staring at us.

As a new father, I am now that pyramid 
     of fish; my body is all eyes and eyes. 
Some of them watch for you in the west 

where the lion sun yawns and shakes off 
     its sleep before it purrs, and hungry, 
dives deep in the deep of the deep.

Credit


Copyright © 2020 by Tomás Q. Morín. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“Paul Otremba passed away in 2019, but not before leaving us with Levee, one last brilliant book of poems. Among the many things we had in common was a love of Elizabeth Bishop, cats, and gourmet meals. Paul loved cooking and eating exquisite food, and I, well, I just loved eating it, especially when he was making it. There's nothing I can say about the poem that isn't obvious. We all miss you, brother."
Tomás Q. Morín

Author


Tomás Q. Morín

Tomás Q. Morín is the author of A Larger Country (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), Machete (Knopf, 2021) and the memoir Let Me Count the Ways (University of Nebraska Press, 2022). He lives in Texas and teaches at Rice University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Date Published: 2020-09-18

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/pile-fish