Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: The Goldfish
Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate
Poet Mekeel McBride, from Kittery, writes: “I told a friend that my goldfish had died. He scoffed, said, ‘I'm a journalist. I deal with things that really matter.’ I felt ashamed for even mentioning it but later, this poem taught me what really does matter and why.”
The Goldfish by Mekeel McBride
It was a feeder, which means it was supposed to get fed to something bigger like a barracuda. But I put the ten-cent comet in clean water with enough food, no predators, and it grew into a radiant glider full of happy appetite.
That was the truth of it for a long time and then the fish, for no reason that I could see, suddenly curled upside down into a red question mark. Now, its golden scales drop off like sequins from a museum dress and its mouth forms over
and over the same empty O. Though I wish to, there’s no way to free it, not even for a second, from its own slow death. You say this fish is the least of it, that I’d better start worrying about what’s really wrong: a child chained somewhere
in a basement, starving; the droop-eyed man, cooking up, in a cast-iron kettle, germ stew that will end the world. But that’s exactly what I said. The golden thing is dying right on the other side of the glass; I can see it and there’s nothing I can do.
Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2006 by Mekeel McBride. Reprinted from Dog Star Delicatessen, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2006, by permission of Mekeel McBride. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-228-8263.