by Akiva J. Savett
my grandfather crushed fish
at his second job,
but spent mornings with the roaring press
of the Philadelphia Inquirer
inking the type blocks
stacking the papers onto skids,
columns of 500.
he was illiterate,
he was illiterate here,
having never learned
to read anything but Cyrillic.
stock pages and murders
in the swirl of his fingerprints, stories
smeared on the legs of his jeans and rye bread
during break stories eaten in a rush
with the other immigrants outside
under the fat American moon
they exhaled sweet clouds of carolina
smoke signals from italians to poles,
russians to irish, news.
my mother took me to surprise him
at "the store" one night.
in a black rubber apron
and black rubber gloves up to his elbows,
he reached into an ice blue bucket
and slapped a thrashing green and silver fish
the length of his arm
onto a chopping block.
he pulled a mallet from a loop on his belt
and smashed its head.
over and over the gasping fish waggled and jumped
over and over he pounded the gavel in judgment
a one note xylophone
he was covered in scales
by the time the fish forgot the ocean.
he turned and smiled
as if he'd been building me a tree house.
my shirt got wet with brine
when he hugged me.
his knife quick and alive,
he opened, gutted, and filleted the fish,
and handed me a chunk wrapped in newspaper
heavy and cold.
AKIVA J. SAVETT'S poetry has been published in a chapbook entitled Preservation (available on Amazon) and appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Kerem, Circa, The Red River Review, In Parentheses, Etcetera, and was published in The Washington Post's "Autobiography As Haiku." He teaches English and Advanced Placement Literature at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and holds a MA in English from University of Delaware. Akiva lives in suburban Maryland with his wife Alison and two children.