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Mark Doty–poet of the depths of surfaces

A Display of Mackerel

They lie in parallel rows,

on ice, head to tail,

each a foot of luminosity


barred with black bands,

which divide the scales’

radiant sections


like seams of lead

in a Tiffany window.

Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,

the wildly rainbowed

mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.

Splendor, and splendor,

and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other

–nothing about them

of individuality.  Instead

they’re all exact expressions

of the one soul,

each a perfect fulfilment

of heaven’s template,

mackerel essence.  As if,

after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s

made uncountable examples,

each as intricate

in its oily fabulation

as the one before

Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves

entirely in the universe

of shimmer–would you want

to be yourself only,

unduplicatable, doomed

to be lost?  They’d prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,

multitudinous.  Even now

the seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.

They don’t care they’re dead

and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,

they didn’t care that they were living:

all, all for all,

the rainbowed school

and its acres of brilliant classrooms,

in which no verb is singular,

or every one is.  How happy they seem,

even on ice, to be together, selfless,

which is the price of gleaming.

             –From “Atlantis”, published in 1995

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One Response to “Mark Doty–poet of the depths of surfaces”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    Hooray for Mark Doty (a Houstonian?) and for you, for posting this poem.

  2. Posted from United States United States

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