It took all my energy to want you
and the rest of me to go after you
and then one day I knew
that I had you.
I was standing at the sink rinsing dust
from a bunch of grapes.
All my energy had been spent
pursuing you and then I had you
and then
I sat down at the kitchen table and ate the grapes.
The day was hot, that day
when I knew I had you. The man
in the house across the street
was cursing his wife.
An hour later I went to see about a job,
and the woman behind the desk
with her gold spectacles
caused me to remember that I had you.
Outside the sky was blue as a china plate.
There is nothing to do
on a day like that
but go to the beach. I caught three fish,
black and heavy as paperweights.
After the third I stopped to clean them in the ribboning surf,
three black fish flecked gold as the capes
of Egyptian kings,
strong swimmers, broad across the backs.
I slit the bellies, tossed the guts and roe
to the waiting gulls, cut the heads off slant
and lay them one by one on the gurgling sand
while I thought of you. Three small boys
picked them up
and carried them away,
holding them aloft as if on pikes.
Even as I fry these fish I think of
their heads against the sky
while the birds worked on a patch of sea
on the lee side of a sand bar that split the water
like the broken spine of a ship,
and as I turn these fish in the pan
I think of the day when I knew I had you,
and then the next, and then the day after that.

—Tony Wallace

Rights & Access

From River Styx #60, 2001
River Styx Magazine

Copyright 2001 by Tony Wallace.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Big River Association from River Styx. Copyright 2001 by Tony Wallace. For further permissions information, contact River Styx,

  • Tony Wallace

    Tony Wallace is the author of the short story collection The Old Priest, published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2013. His poetry has been published in The Atlanta Review, Another Chicago Magazine, River Styx, and many other magazines and journals.