Crushed Ice by Mark Belair

The old, downtown fish shop stands
closed, and not just for the day, it seems:

the rolled-paper dispenser empty, the shiny knife rack stripped,
the soggy sawdust unswept and, of course, no spread of fish.

Yet the raked steel display where the day’s catch
would lay arrayed holds a coat of fresh, crushed

ice, cleanly graded, its crisp presence absurd but
there it is, someone’s careful handiwork, perhaps of

the laborer in rubber boots always there, a gnarled man
not knowledgeable and skilled like the countermen but

a simple man holding down a simple job
he has probably worked for decades, so

ancient is this shop; a job he—unfit for much else?—
may have worked to the exclusion of all else; a job

the loss of which may mean the end of his working life;
a ruination he replays each day by spreading ice as if to

smooth—before the storefront holds yet another boutique—
his soft, chilled, unfashionable soul.

About the author:

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His most recent collection is Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015). Previous collections include Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times. For more information, please visit