Here we are on my birthday, here
at Olive and Lemon, my husband
my daughter, my friend, gathered
to celebrate my enduring
fifty-six years. Candles burn down.
Our table glows in ritual.
Tonight I have eaten four fat
sardines grilled, then risotto, black
with cuttlefish ink, so fitting
as where we sit all together
leaning slightly back, talking in
that after dinner way, presents
opened and admired, Espresso
Doubles (decaffenated for me)
almost drunk… here, where we sit,
in Olive and Lemon, which was
I was three, then four, perhaps five,
the Jewish Fish Store.
Every Friday while my father shopped next door
I watched The Big Carp who waited
for me in his oblong metal tank.
His mouth opened and closed,
his fins waved, keeping his balance
steady, almost still. His pale eye
stared at me from the side of his head.
I stared back. We were alone
together…wary, touched with fear.
I did not know that he would die
each week, sold, to be transformed into
a meal for Shabas, nor that he would
swim beside me, resurrected
as a guest at my birthday feast
tonight, at Olive and Lemon.
Shelagh Hewitt Kareda has had a romance with food since she was six and ate her first shrimp while on a trip to Florida. Her poetry has been published in several journals including The Literary Review of Canada and in Amethyst Review. For ten years she was a contributing editor to Where to Eat In Canada.