Knife blade pressed the pad of my grandfather’s

thumb, never breaking his skin worn with time,

many knives. He slit the backs of shrimp, pulled

out the veins, tossed them into a clean bucket.


The sun sparked off the dull knife,

morning giving way to Mississippi noon.

The same sun burned the backs

of shrimpers on their boats,

glinted sediment into sand.


Beside him, my grandmother popped

off shrimp heads, ignored begging cats.

Her knobbed fingers, the skin stretched

tight over knuckles, loose at nails, would

hover over frying oil, test the heat.


The same sun flashes now on a gulf

slicked with greed and dead zone:

the small crustacean,

the small shrimp boat’s wings,

the small town’s supper.

Alive instead, the rigs.


See that oil sheen?

That’s our flag now.

That burning smoke, our pledge;

that weeping, our anthem.