“It Took All My Energy” by Tony Wallace
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
It Took All My Energy
It took all my energy to want you and the rest of me to go after you and then one day I knew that I had you. I was standing at the sink rinsing dust from a bunch of grapes. All my energy had been spent pursuing you and then I had you and then I sat down at the kitchen table and ate the grapes. The day was hot, that day when I knew I had you. The man in the house across the street was cursing his wife. An hour later I went to see about a job, and the woman behind the desk with her gold spectacles caused me to remember that I had you. Outside the sky was blue as a china plate. There is nothing to do on a day like that but go to the beach. I caught three fish, black and heavy as paperweights. After the third I stopped to clean them in the ribboning surf, three black fish flecked gold as the capes of Egyptian kings, strong swimmers, broad across the backs. I slit the bellies, tossed the guts and roe to the waiting gulls, cut the heads off slant and lay them one by one on the gurgling sand while I thought of you. Three small boys picked them up and carried them away, holding them aloft as if on pikes. Even as I fry these fish I think of their heads against the sky while the birds worked on a patch of sea on the lee side of a sand bar that split the water like the broken spine of a ship, and as I turn these fish in the pan I think of the day when I knew I had you, and then the next, and then the day after that.
from River Styx #60, 2001
River Styx Magazine
Copyright 2001 by Tony Wallace.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Big River Association from River Styx. Copyright 2001 by Tony Wallace. For further permissions information, contact Richard Newman, Editor, River Styx, 634 N. Grand Boulevard, 12th Floor, St. Louis, MO 63103, www.riverstyx.org.
About the Poet
Tony Wallace is the author of the short story collection The Old Priest, published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2013. His poetry has been published in The Atlanta Review, Another Chicago Magazine, River Styx, and many other magazines and journals.
Learn more about Tony Wallace.