At the end of the book--after a paean to Rosa Parks, a moving elegy for Finney's grandmother, an enraged poem about black New Orleanians abandoned on the roofs of their flooded homes after Katrina, a sequence that imagines Condoleezza Rice at her grand piano, a crown of sonnets on President Bush, and many others--Finney returns to that fishmonger and his gutted fish. Once again completely comfortable with the metaphors that life gives her, the poet first describes an older child returned to aging parents, then in a wonderfully surreal moment becomes that headless, gutted fish: "The exquisite tip of his knife/enters at the lip of my sternum." As frightening as this may sound, Finney by the end of the poem has arrived at a much more nuanced and complicated place: "I am tossed into / the icy silver bowl A lifetime of waiting Hungering / to be called Delicious."
Nikky Finney reads from Head Off & Split at UMMA on February 20.
[Originally published in February, 2013.]