The Frontal Cortex

Poem of the Day

And it comes with recipes, too! Here’s Billy Collins:

As soon as the elderly waiter
placed before me the fish I had ordered,
it began to stare up at me
with its one flat, iridescent eye.

I feel sorry for you, it seemed to say,
eating alone in this awful restaurant
bathed in such unkindly light
and surrounded by these dreadful murals of Sicily.

And I feel sorry for you, too —
yanked from the sea and now lying dead
next to some boiled potatoes in Pittsburgh —
I said back to the fish as I raised my fork.

And thus my dinner in an unfamiliar city
with its rivers and lighted bridges
was graced not only with chilled wine
and lemon slices but with compassion and sorrow

even after the waiter removed my plate
with the head of the fish still staring
and the barrel vault of its delicate bones
terribly exposed, save for a shroud of parsley.


  1. #1 Adam Glenn
    November 26, 2007

    What struck me about this was that the Times had the horribly poor taste to follow this poignant ode to interspecies bonding with a bunch of tacky fish recipes! Who made that call? And what’s next — a investigative report on the child slave labor phenomenon, with a sidebar on how to save $$ by shopping for rugs and sneakers made by kids?!

  2. #2 Jonah
    November 26, 2007

    Good point. It’s a bit like putting some meat recipes in a Peter Singer book. But I also liked the juxtaposition of “compassion and sorrow,” as Collins poem puts it, with the usual delicious-sounding recipes for cooked creatures. The worst part is that most people won’t think about their seafood as anything but food.

  3. #3 Drekab
    November 26, 2007

    Well, it’s not in too bad of taste, really. It’s a poem of a man eating a fish, not releasing one into a lake. But I do agree, people should think more about where their food comes from. We’re predators, we kill things and eat them. It’s okay to feel a bit sorry for the little guys, even while we’re enjoying their flavor.

  4. #4 queso
    November 27, 2007

    I really appreciated the poem, what surprised me is that anyone could be sad in pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s my home city, I grew up about an hour north of there. I moved to south carolina for graduate school in august, and driving through the tunnels into pittsburgh on my way home for thanksgiving break created the most uplifting filling i’ve felt in a long time. Pittsburgh’s awesome, and so was the poem.


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