After having the ocean all to myself,
I got caught in a net and dumped
into the bowels of a sardine factory.
Smoked herring filled the air
seducing customers for miles around.
I became a victim of unsmiling
lady workers with smudged aprons
who squeezed me into a tin can.
I mastered the art of snuggling up.
The ladies were mesmerized
by synchronized bells, buzzers,
and the clatter of a conveyer belt.
They worked feverishly,
paid by the number of cans packed.
Letting go of my sardine body, I fell in love.
I should have earned a Nobel Prize
in lying cheek by jowl, and bone to bone—
a degree of intimacy unknown to anyone before.
It proved to be a tonic for my future wife
who had grown up as a lonely little critter.
Years later, trapped in a crowded subway,
I thought I was turning back into a sardine.
I screamed at the top of my lungs,
I ain’t no longer a sardine, and Oscar,
you ain’t and never was no king.