Poetry » Tara Deal »

Like Peeling Shrimp

There’s a certain way to do it,
something you learned, if you’re lucky,
as a child on the coast

and now you know
to grab the pink thighs
of slight legs
in order to rip off the shell,

to take out that black strip of stomach that might offend someone

          having picked a sharp knife, of course,
          for fast work but never
          one of those special tools that serves
          only one purpose

before cooking up the whole mess—so fast there’s no time to tell
everyone please come to the table—and translucence turns



Miniature river fish
swimming just
a moment ago
by the front door

a slap on the table

now relaxes on the brazier, pure summer.

Crackled like lacquer,
framed by fins,

a scribble begins

to fall

bones turn crisp
as one autumn in a flash,
then a wisp

of gold leaf lost
on the tongue

while someone else can’t stop talking
along the long

hinoki wood table, freshly sanded and fragrant.


To start with: sticks
in the air
and trembling:

        either the cloudy mohair blankness like paradise
        or the splitting of yarns as fine as hairs.

Casting on,
casting about,
hoping to slip out

after finishing a line or two.
And soon a bit of width
        if not depth
takes shape

        mistakes appear in the pattern
        to repair later
        when it’s good to have something
        to do

while the work increases

past silk and cashmere
bamboo and wool


needs just this length
of rope—a scarf, a cowl,
a tangle to have, to hold
when winter arrives like Silver Cappuccino,
        possibly Lantern Gold.