The cookie tin is dark metal blue with a wreath of vegetation, elegant, stylized, in silvery white, making a mandala of the lid. In the inner circle are two little boys, naked, with wings, cupids they are, little angels, and each holds a piece of rope or twining string or drapery which leads down to make an oval trap, a net, an enclosure for the fish. Is the fish’s expression doleful? Resigned? Neutral? Inscrutable? I’ve had this cookie tin for 20 years, maybe more, and never looked at it this closely before. I took it from my mother’s kitchen, or she gave it to me, or I asked her for it, I can’t remember. Also, where it came from before that, I cannot recall. When I bring cookies to a dinner or writer’s reading, I almost always bring them in this tin, and someone almost always says to me, I love it.
So do I. Why do they love it? Why do I? Isn’t the image disturbing? The fish – is it imprisoned? This morning, eating oatmeal cookies from this tin, a cascade of questions came to me. Why are the angels catching fish? Are they fishers of men as the bible tells us to be? Then, why so mischievous? And why such a realistic, fishy fish, redolent of fins? Baleful and remote. Or, wise beyond imagining, swimmer of the depths, the everchanging sea, caught in a gentle net by two innocents with wings…. Perhaps a trinity? Maybe one of them is a winged girl. Boy, fish, girl. Angels and their fish. Which one am I today? In what loose prison, garnished with knots, do I float, unharmed? Was it made by laughing angels? Are the cords that bind me divine? Ah, that’s why I am here.