Requiem Shark

By Rad Smith 1947–1998 Rad Smith
This morning as I gulp five gleaming white
capsules of shark cartilage
to make me strong again, I want
another look at the terrible
eye with its nictitating membrane,
those extravagant fins,
the ampullae of Lorenzini freckling its snout,
all of that huge body on the rippled sand
in turtle grass
with an entourage of neon-blue barjacks,
and a remora wriggling in
and out of its gill-slits.
I even want to touch it again,
and this time not just with my fingertips,
but my palm, loveline and lifeline,
my wrist, the underside of my forearm.
I want to press my cheek against its chaste
astonishing skin smooth as a headstone,
want the touch that feels like a blow,
the summoning touch, the touch
of reckoning, the consummating touch, as well as
the stinging sandblown touch of regret,
the stranger's touch on the train,
the reproachful touch,
even the last touch of a human
who has lain down with a shark,
the touch I have spent my life so ignorant of,
your touch as you unbutton my shirt,
the searing, unbearable touch.

Source: Poetry (March 2000).


This poem originally appeared in the March 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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March 2000


Poet Lewis Conrad “Rad” Smith III was born in Iowa City and grew up in Minnesota. He earned an MBA at the University of Virginia and studied poetry with Elizabeth Bishop at Harvard. He was a technology executive, with a second-degree black belt in karate, until a late-stage diagnosis of lung cancer led him to retire early and devote his time to poetry. His debut collection, Distant Early Warning (2005), was published . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Relationships, Love, The Body, Animals, Desire, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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