Pity-Driven Poetry

squid

Pity the squid. Or maybe pity the poet who pities, of all things, squids. (If you’re curious, I looked up the plural, which can be either squid OR squids.)

Feeling sorry for cute animals is a well-known human trait. Consider those heartbreaking images of singed koala bears being plucked from danger in the Australian wildfires.

But ugly animals? Not many feel sorrow for distressed snakes or possums or certainly squids.

It’s a tall order, then, for Sandra Cisneros to generate some sympathy for a squid. Is this the task of poetry? To which I can only reply: What other genre, if not poetry? Exhibit A:

 

Fishing Calamari by Moon
for A. Stavrou
Sandra Cisneros

At the bullfights as a child
I always cheered for the bull,
that underdog of underdogs,
destined to lose, and I tell you
this, Andoni, so you’ll understand,

though we are miles from bullrings.
The Greek moon a lovely thing
to look at above our boat.
We are an international crew tonight.
Greek sea, African Queen, you, me.

But I am sad. Probably the only
foolish fisherman to cry
because we’ve caught a calamari.
You didn’t tell me how

their skins turn black
as sorrow. How they suck the air
in dying, a single terrifying cry
terrible as tin.

You will cook it in oil.
You will slice it and serve it
for our lunch tomorrow.
Endaxi—okay.

But tonight my heart
goes out to the survivors,
to the ones who get away.
To all underdogs everywhere,
bravo, Andoni. Olé.

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