They lie in parallel rows, on ice, head to tail, each a foot of luminosity barred with black bands, which divide the scales’ radiant sections like seams of lead in a Tiffany window. Iridescent, watery prismatics: think abalone, the wildly rainbowed mirror of a soapbubble sphere, think sun on gasoline. Splendor, and splendor, and not a one in any way distinguished from the other —nothing about them of individuality. Instead they’re all exact expressions of the one soul, each a perfect fulfilment of heaven’s template, mackerel essence. As if, after a lifetime arriving at this enameling, the jeweler’s made uncountable examples, each as intricate in its oily fabulation as the one before Suppose we could iridesce, like these, and lose ourselves entirely in the universe of shimmer—would you want to be yourself only, unduplicatable, doomed to be lost? They’d prefer, plainly, to be flashing participants, multitudinous. Even now they seem to be bolting forward, heedless of stasis. They don’t care they’re dead and nearly frozen, just as, presumably, they didn’t care that they were living: all, all for all, the rainbowed school and its acres of brilliant classrooms, in which no verb is singular, or every one is. How happy they seem, even on ice, to be together, selfless, which is the price of gleaming. From Atlantis, published by HarperCollins. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty.
What images, phrases or sounds stand out to you? What in this poem speaks to you today?