In Texas, fish pelted the pavement,
less stunned than the men who’d found them
in the parking lot. They’d come a long way,
the fish. It was a hell of a ride, lifted from the sea
by a force no fish brain could possibly have fathomed,
slapped down dead at the used car dealership
on Summerhill Road. The men who gathered,
trying to figure out what in the name of sweet baby Jesus
could have happened, were at a disadvantage,
never having been lifted themselves, knowing plenty
about plagues of frogs and locusts but next to nothing
about fishes come without loaves. They’d heard
that crack of thunder, five days past Christmas,
two days before the new year. Fish were dropping
here and everywhere, they’d told the reporter,
not knowing what to say except what was obvious,
broken fish bodies starting to stink up their shoes.
The smell stayed with them all day, and now,
after saying prayers and shivering in the cold
that came with the storm, they stared at the ceiling
wishing there’d been a way to close those damn
fish eyes staring like they’d seen the face of God.
And they guessed the fish had. And they guessed
that was blasphemy. And they guessed the fish
had gotten what they deserved. So they closed
their own eyes and curled up closer to their wives,
women who’d been staring at the ceiling for weeks,
who were pretty sure they knew what those fish
had been through, pretty sure they hadn’t seen God.
Paula J. Lambert of Columbus, Ohio, has authored several collections of poetry including The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (FutureCycle 2022) and How to See the World (Bottom Dog 2020). Awarded PEN America's L'Engle-Rahman Prize for Mentorship, Lambert's work has been supported by the Ohio Arts Council and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. She has twice been in residence at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts.
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Golly ... I am a big fan of the poems published in SWWIM, but this time I absolutely HAVE to say: wow, whoa, and Yay for this poem.
I so love this poem. I have saved poems from here before, but (except for with my own) never commented; but I just had to express this now.