A Fortune in Trades

By Cecilia Hagen

Once, for fixing a car, my husband was paid with a large bag
of small fish—smelt, frozen into a block that was flecked
with scores of silver eyes. I would bring a dull knife
out to the chest freezer and break off a chunk,
let it thaw in the sink and feed it to the cats and dog.

Another customer shaved off some of the cost of her engine rebuild
by knitting my husband wool socks that needed to be washed
a particular way, which I failed to do, because this customer
wanted to do more for him than knit his socks, and maybe did.
After they shrank, I could have but wouldn’t wear the socks myself,

a waste I could live with. In the pantry sat another trade, a jar
of home-canned venison I never dared to open.
Those purplish cubes of meat in their purplish fluid
pushed against the jar’s insides for years.

My favorite trades were the things the metalsmith made:
a hammered a rack for pans, a copper vase,
and three bright numbers that still mark that house—
beautiful things with the tang of the earth inside them.


Cecelia Hagen’s work has recently appeared in Guesthouse, Broadsided, On
the Seawall
, and Zyzzyva, and she has received awards and fellowships from
the MacDowell Colony, Playa, and Literary Arts. Her three books of poems are
Entering, Among Others, and Fringe Living. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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