Sardines in Oil

Sardines à l'huile fine sans têtes et sans arêtes.
Headless, boneless sardines in fine oil.
-- The sardine-sellers' advertisements, passim.

In their coffin of a tin
full of smelly, putrid oil
all these tiny silvery bodies
marinate decapitated
like the guillotined
lost here in turnip country!
They have seen every sea,
Thule's coast, gray and stony,
underneath fogs silvery
the enchanted North Sea . . .
Now in the tin
and the smelly, putrid oil
toxic restaurants
serve them to their clients!
But far behind the sky
each poor small soul, innocent,
chants her mute chant
in the Paradise-of-fish,
a fresh and lunar sea
pale like Keats or Shelley,
the Sea of Serenity
with long reflections silvery
where they endure eternity
without fearing any more the
cormorants or the nets;
all the good little fish
will swim after death! . . .

Without hands, without knees, without voice*
sardines, pray for us! . . .

* All that is necessary for prayer-- Author's Note.

Intro - English - French - Trot
Animal Poetry

Translations by Ursula Whitcher, 2001