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  • Nancy Pagh

From No Sweeter Fat by Nancy Pagh

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I would like to write you a poem about fat ladies
but you prefer to read of blackberries.
There are eight hundred sixty-four poems about blackberries
published in English; where is the harm
in another?
So let's say that the wildest fat ladies
grow on low runners that snake
unplanted along the driest hillsides
of coastal British Columbia.
The tight knot of their fruit
is smaller than all others, and shaped
like the bud of your own coldest nipple.
I heard a Sixteenth-Century Italian printer
despaired the destruction of cuttlefish
and began making his books with the juice
of fat ladies.
A transplanted Himalayan variety of fat lady
ripens in cow pastures late in the autumn.
It hangs in black clumps
among serrated yellow leaves, tasting
like barbed wire, hatred, and the mineral note
of self abnegation; your tongue thrills
to meet such darkness.
Royalty used to reserve the color of fat ladies
just for itself, but now
the CEOs all favor a striking red tie.
The American president follows suit.
Fat ladies travel many miles
in the gut of a bear
to colonize the bright waste of clearcuts.
I would like to read the diaries
kept on one of these passages.
Have you ever noticed that the biggest fat ladies
are just beyond your reach?
Fat ladies do not taste
like salmonberries. Salmonberries do not taste
of salmon. Fat ladies taste good
when you are standing near the Nooksack River
watching the salmon
or watching the places you wish there were salmon.
Fat ladies permanently stain everything
except your tongue.
An overripe fat lady drops in your palm
with the slightest touch.
If you try to blow off the roadside dust
you will break its tender skin
and miss the holy communion
of eating the roadside dust.
Oh that first day, that first day you notice
the fat ladies have withered and dried on their vines:
a regret more tart
than the small unripe segments
of the first fat lady
you ate that summer.
Again and again the fat ladies push
in to every unclaimed corner of the neighborhoods,
reminding the soft palates of children
there really are things in this world
so sweet and so free.
There are so many fat ladies; where is the harm
in sprinkling one with sugar
to watch the materialization
of Homer's wine-dark sea?

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