a big one

he’s the proprietor of this tiny fish market, he’s in his mid-
fifties, 6 feet two, 245 pounds smeared with fishblood,
white cap a little too large for his head and the head is
a little too large also.
photos of himself and his son upon the walls:   they’ve
caught some big ones.
he moves toward you, leans upon the glass, says,
“yes, can I help you?”
his fish are beautiful, clean and fresh.
“Yes,” you say, “cut me two slices of sea bass, about so…”
he pulls the fish out of the counter, carries it to his
table, he begins to whistle, slicing the fish, he finishes
brings the slices, weighs them, he’s still whistling.   he
stops whistling, says, “That’ll be four dollars….”   he
wraps the fish, puts it in a paper bag.
he takes your money with a very large hand.

there’s this feeling I have about this fish shop:
his fish are a work of art but I’m always glad to leave.
“Have a nice evening,” he says and I say, “Likewise.”
it’s good to go out that screen door and walk toward my
car:   after all those years he has become like his fish,
he now has the soul of a fish, I can visualize him
at night swimming in this large saltwater tank with
his fish and all he wears is that overlarge white

he has some nice evenings as I eat his fish.

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript
This poem appeared in the following books: