Catfish Joint on the Red
by Nick Norwood

Squatting stubborn in its elm thicket
on the Oklahoma bank, dark, low-ceilinged Doug’s
Peach Orchard Restaurant outstrips
its peckered namesake upon the rounded bluff

above. Cinder-blocked and pine-paneled.
With formica table tops and black-vinyled chairs.
Its blotched burgundy carpet grows rich
in this atmosphere of grease hanging heavy

as a rainforest, falling as a fine mist
on Melmac plates of relish and cole slaw.
Hushpuppies dense as cannonshot,
carbuncled as cartoon naval mines, depth

charges heaped in wax-papered baskets,
served with fries and platters of fish,
are carried in by country girls with bottoms
like pairs of basketballs. Filleted, deep fried,

the chunks of fish themselves appear as peels
of sun-dried earthcrust cut from a riverbed:
goldbrown curls, slabs, thick cancerous tongues
twisted into cries of grief or rage.

Fried whole they arrive prehistoric
and fill your mouth with bones. But forty
years in the gravel parking lot stays stocked,
the Miller High Life sign is always on.

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