I can’t tell you why I imagine the shoal because
I do. I’ve tried thinking it’s more picturesque
than picaresque, like those old pricks in the tidy
town. Michael the Ferry because he ran the taxi boat
to Portmagee. My grandfather’s cronies with cases
of salmon from somewhere means somewhere, done.
We’ve still a good back in the country, now back
at the local bolloxed, prawn on brown loaf for lunch,
a generation since uncles. Here’s ma with a half
pint, half-expecting they’ll tromp in, all broth,
cigarettes flicked like weathercocks, black suits
and those rubber fisherman boots. Cheers, the time
Michael took the taken salmon crates and sold them back
to the right Proprietors & Sons, and no bones
about it. The cats of a kind in a loop of cahoots.
Then there was after the time my grandma said Uncle
Brian had taken a job in China when everyone knew
he was doing an eight-year stretch in the pen.
Next time I saw him, we laughed and walked on people’s hands
outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater and he said look,
all this is someone’s imagination and game,
all this was once an idea. I imagine the shoal
sands covered with salmon because I have an idea
that choking must feel like our most calamitous mistakes,
because I see the uncles raking in seal weather, beaten
like hard stumps, and I dig them by the black of my nails.
Watching the Fights at the Tryon House While Lorca Says Duende
Like Iron Mike,
I would bring my lips to your ear and eat
your children praise be because like Mike
lived juvie, I’m fatherless, foundered like iron in gloves
on soft spots.
Like his sweet-bellied
birds, I would be something I could be
a fool for,
your living blue note.
Matt Salyer is an Assistant Professor at West Point. His work has appeared in Narrative, The Common, Poetry Northwest, Hunger Mountain, Massachusetts Review, and numerous other journals. He was a finalist in both 2016 and 2017 for the Iowa Review Prize. His first book, Ravage & Snare, a semi-finalist for the Brittingham and Pollak Prizes, is forthcoming from Pen and Anvil Press.