“After Senza Titolo” by Matthew Gavin Frank

Matthew Gavin Frank


painting by Corrado Cagli

I promised him I would not say
grasshopper, or superman. So

Fortune is this fish and this
flower, and neither are the body—

not some smart flat
of a knife. Not some

wondering about the stars.
The coming into the world

insectile, or some dumb gang
of coral, smacked with its first air—

I can’t look at a fish without thinking
how lucky they are to have

the ocean. How can they watch
the stars? It’s beautiful

what must be substitute,
their words for night,

the different way they
hold their fins.

How we come into
this thin tissue with a stroke

of fingertip over gill, the words
we have to explain, dumb

as the coral—wing to bird, fin
to fish, leaf to tree—is that

the best we can do?
Our heartbreak is last year’s

nest, the frozen lake, the yard
we forgot to rake. The lie

is that we’ll miss our families most.
Instead: the silver batteries

agitating the surface of the water,
the things we aren’t—some wild

mating we can only read about,
all strange biology and our hearts

that are a part of it, kept from us,
something else we’re not. We’re

made up of servants
without a lord, working to push us

toward cold water and
it’s beautiful, we’re science

and there is no substitute
for the stars. Not mother

or husband or daughter, but fish,
but finch, but fir.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009


Matthew Gavin Frank: “I’ve ran a tiny breakfast joint in Juneau, Alaska; worked the Barolo wine harvest in Italy’s Piedmont; sautéed hog snapper hung-over in Key West; designed multiple degustation menus for Julia Roberts’ private parties in Taos, New Mexico; served as a sommelier in Chicago; and authored a book of poems. Tonight, in the kitchen, I will combine blesbok venison with chocolate, jalapeño, espresso, and blood orange.” (web)

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