John Casteen

Shad Roe

There was one apricot, in Connecticut: sublime.
Two martinis with fried chicken in Saratoga, 1999,
when the Macintosh apples were coming in.
Potomac River oysters my grandmother fried—
this was Christmas—a man in the Navy Yard
had tonged them that morning for my uncle.
Also: Laurie’s potatoes, bluefish we caught
and grilled, Smithfield ham, garden tomatoes.

But last night, after everything, the bacon, the parsley,
the lemon, so fragile: old Bruns had brought in some shad roe.
I cannot attempt to describe the flavors, except to say
I felt the roe abscond with each remembered pleasure
I’d ever had.  My father said it was as he’d had it
as a boy, and I think he meant right: it had that single,
Platonic, implacable rightness, the mark of the divine
in the physical world.  (You have to really love food.)

Like the peregrination of the single idea, the
in-this-am-I-made-whole summation of scattered things.
Louis asks, Are the pleasures of ironic detachment
less deep than the pleasures of true affection?
  I fear
that, yes, they may be.  I am thinking of last night again,
now, and the set of my father’s jaw as he leans his head
to one side, deciding about the first bite.  (You have to get
a little bit of everything, you know, the first bite.  Then

pick and choose.)  We roll our eyes to one side to remember,
to the other side to lie.  Between the purely reclaimed
and the purely imagined: firm, slim, kidney-colored
taut little lobed loaves, twice-savored, twice-revisited. 


© 2008 Electronic Poetry Review