As a white stone draws down the fish
she on the seafloor of the afternoon
draws down men’s glances and their cruel wish
for love. Slyly red lip on the spoon
slips in a morsel of ice-cream; her hands
white as milky stone, white submarine
fronds, sink with spread fingers, lean
along the table, carmined at the ends.
A cotton magnate, an important fish
with great eyepouches and a golden mouth
through the frail reefs of furniture swims out
and idling, suspended, stays to watch.
A crustacean old man clamped to his chair
sits coldly near her and might see
her charms through fissures where the eyes should be
or else his teeth are parted in a stare.
Captain on leave, a lean dark mackerel,
lies in the offing; turns himself and looks
through currents of sound. The flat-eyed flatfish sucks
on straw, staring from its repose, laxly.
And gallants in shoals swim up and lag,
circling and passing near the white attraction;
sometimes pausing, opening a conversation;
fish pause so to nibble or tug.
Now the ice-cream is finished, is
paid for. The fish swim off on business
and she sits alone at the table, a white stone
useless except to a collector, a rich man.
— Behavior of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden by Keith Douglas