Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunday Market Papeete

We are in Papeete, Tahiti's main city, actually the biggest city in French Polynesia, and the first one we've been in since leaving Cabo over two months ago. We had a beautiful sail from Apataki in the Tuamotus, leaving at night, as we had been invited to local's home for dinner, and arriving about 36 hours later. This is more or less the farthest point south we will travel --we are 4230 nautical miles from Nanaimo. 
Papeete is a very busy port and we are tied up at the quay in the middle of the action, rocking with every ferry and freighter wake. But there are advantages, for instance we are ten minutes away from the market, which is especially busy on Sundays.                    

I'm always eager to find the fish stands--it's a great chance to see what the local species are; the Sunday market gets fish in from all the islands. Not surprisingly many of them we'd seen snorkelling and diving.  This display reminded me of a poem by the American poet Mark Doty

 A Display of Mackeral

They lie in parallel rows,

on ice, head to tail,

each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,

which divide the scales'

radiant sections


like seams of lead

in a Tiffany window.

Iridescent, watery


prismatics: think abalone,

the wildly rainbowed

mirror of a soap-bubble sphere,


think sun on gasoline.

Splendor, and splendor,

and not a one in any way


distinguished from the other

--nothing about them

of individuality. Instead


they're all exact expressions

of the one soul,

each a perfect fulfillment


of heaven's template,

mackerel essence. As if,

after a lifetime arriving


at this enameling, the jeweler's

made uncountable examples

each as intricate


in its oily fabulation

as the one before;

a cosmos of champleve.


Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves

entirely in the universe


of shimmer--would you want

to be yourself only,

unduplicatable, doomed


to be lost? They'd prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,

multitudinous. Even on ice


they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.

They don't care they're dead


and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,

they didn't care that they were living:


all, all for all,

the rainbowed school

and its acres of brilliant classrooms,


in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,

even on ice, to be together, selfless,


which is the price of gleaming.


materfamilias said...

Either you really brought the right books along or you have 1an even better memory than I knew! I've recently read Doty's memoir about losing his old Golden (as I've recently lost mine).
btw, Paul and I are in Montreal tonight and tomorrow, flying to London from here -- walking St. Catherine this evening, kept an eye out for Lindsay ;-)

Alison Watt said...

wish I could say I simply pulled this out of my memory, but no, I had in on file from a download a few years ago. You certainly are a jet setter these days: Ottawa, Montreal, and if I remember correctly, Paris next. Lindsay, by the way, is in Victoria this summer. I will miss having an excuse to visit Montreal. Have a great trip, I look forward to catching it on the blog (when I get anywhere near internet)

Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh, but they do care that they are living, or they wouldn't swim away from the shark. Lovely poem still. Nice that you have a laptop on which to summon it up. Good company, to a point, no?