A Display of Mackerel

Original Text: 
© Mark Doty, Atlantis: Poems (HarperPerennial, 1995): 14-15. PS 3554 O798A8 1995 Robarts Library
1They lie in parallel rows,
2on ice, head to tail,
3each a foot of luminosity
4barred with black bands,
5which divide the scales'
6radiant sections
7like seams of lead
8in a Tiffany window.
9Iridescent, watery
11the wildly rainbowed
12mirror of a soapbubble sphere,
13think sun on gasoline.
14Splendor, and splendor,
15and not a one in any way
16distinguished from the other
17-- nothing about them
18of individuality. Instead
19they're all exact expressions
20of the one soul,
21each a perfect fulfilment
22of heaven's template,
23mackerel essence. As if,
24after a lifetime arriving
25at this enameling, the jeweler's
26made uncountable examples,
27each as intricate
28in its oily fabulation
29as the one before
30Suppose we could iridesce,
31like these, and lose ourselves
32entirely in the universe
33of shimmer -- would you want
34to be yourself only,
35unduplicatable, doomed
36to be lost? They'd prefer,
37plainly, to be flashing participants,
38multitudinous. Even now
39they seem to be bolting
40forward, heedless of stasis.
41They don't care they're dead
42and nearly frozen,
43just as, presumably,
44they didn't care that they were living:
45all, all for all,
46the rainbowed school
47and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
48in which no verb is singular,
49or every one is. How happy they seem,
50even on ice, to be together, selfless,
51which is the price of gleaming.
Copyright 1995 Mark Doty, Atlantis: Poems HarperPerennial
Digital Facsimile of Original Pages


10] abalone: a mollusc, the ear-shell or sea-ear. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The Atlantic Monthly 276 (Sept. 1995): 92.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Special Copyright: 

This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Mark Doty.