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Poetic License: Surf & Turf

By Staff | Oct 26, 2012

by Jim Gustafson

A man selling frozen lobster tails and steaks door to door Wednesday afternoon in Cape Coral was fatally shot by a homeowner.Jul. 25, 2012 Fort Myers, Florida News Press.

“Good Day Sir

May I interest you in some Lobster Tails?

Lovely Maine Lobster, fresh frozen

That you can boil or


  • Bang!!

Not the anticipated response.

A rather strong objection

Never discussed in sales training.

He didn’t even get to pitch the steak

Back-up to the more profitable lobster.

It is a sad tale this

One moment, happy to be working

In a neighborhood of Middle Americans,

Doing math in his head,

Figuring his commission.

Next moment, all calculations cease.

Smith and Wesson blunt tip

Smacks his chest,

Sends his folders flying

In the front yard breeze

Where they drift like confetti

In gentle sways

To earth.

He falls on his back,

Looks up as he bleeds out.

Strange glows roll in

On blue moments

Between storm clouds

Reflected in dark canal water

Where fresh rain air

Scents all that is still.

Upon learning of his fate,

Lobsters cease to tread

The sea’s soft sand floor

In a moment of respect —

They stand claws closed,

Bodies rocking in the cold

Current moving in

The music of the tide.

Lobsters prefer to be

Frozen and avoid

The scalding screams

Of death that come

In live boiling caldron dips.

The cattle did not care.

News reached them late.

They grazed on without grief

For they abhor the thought

Of their loins frozen

Brick hard wrapped

In white waxed paper

To be sold from a truck.

It is, they believe

The worst possible fate.

Every cow’s dream is the display case

In a boutique butcher shop

On an upscale street in Connecticut

Where tinted windowed SUV’s

Parallel park next to trees planted

In spaces surrounded by bricks.

Where the best of people come

With their own cloth bag

To tote fresh beef home

In a smug testimony

To the importance of clean air.

There is a difference —

While land is occupied,

The sea is only visited.

The cows resent constant

Traffic’s thunder passing

On pavement rolled out

Over pastures where

Their ancestors once grazed

To the chorus of birds,

While lobsters never grow

Weary of ancestral sea melodies

Sung so deep even ships

Overhead do not intrude.

Different worlds these —

Land and sea,

A choice for burial.

Where does one put

A surf and turf salesman to rest?

Jim Gustafson lives in Fort Myers, Florida where he reads, writes, and pulls weeds. His chapbook, Six Rivers, will be published by Aldrich Press in early 2013. He is the winner of the 2012 Southwest Florida Poetry Festival prize.