Shannon Rose Jones
MFA FD 2022

II talk a lot about wanting to get a tattoo of an anchovy.

Maybe it would be silly and sweet, and maybe that is okay.

We saw them in a food service–size can that had been tipped upside down to release its contents. The anchovies clung together in the shape of a Bundt cake. Hundreds of them, with a thin layer of oil, all perfectly layered on top of one another and spiraling out from a vacant core. We delicately peeled each individual fish from the top of the mass and served them directly on plates, or on top of toast with a tomato spread.

They are strong little bombs of salt and fishy flavor—never something I would have tried in a previous life.

I was used to starch and mild, processed flavors. Few spices. Kept separate from bodies and faces and the sea.

Images by the author.

You showed me the salt water. Far away from the lakes but now more intimate with how it all tastes. You showed me how much salt I needed to add to our pasta water—always more than I think. You always say it should taste like the sea. Taste like the sea, taste like the sea, taste like the sea. How it stings when I dive under and it goes up through my mouth backwards and out of my nose.

Anchovies have a bold and stunning depth of flavor, improving any dish they become a part of. Thank you for nourishing me, for showing me what it means to be fed. Closer to the salt water by swallowing its inhabitants.

Other fish eat you, too. I wonder what it feels like to be eaten by a bigger version of yourself.

I look at you and can feel your glow. I sense the heat of the flame that formed you. I hear the small bursts of electricity bringing you power.

It is impossible for neon signs to be “machined.” The process requires someone who is trained to bend, a craftsperson. It is a working class job, a workload determined by marketing trends, the desires of old beer sign collectors hoping to illuminate their basements.

Most people learn by apprenticing and bending for hours and hours. Burning hands, slicing fingers on sharp glass.

Eventually your bent letters, miles of hollow glass tube, are bombarded with a noble gas so the Tornado Room can lure in drunk young adults to eat steak sandwiches and spill martinis. Laugh and chainsmoke, illuminated by the glow that you provide.

Lady Bird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act moved to limit billboards and outdoor advertising to make America’s roadsides more beautiful. I agree but I also disagree: we don’t mind seeing the signs on the side of the road when they are far and few between. Few and far? Far and few.

We can tell when the signs are older, a signal that they belong to a place that was conceived before we were born. We always go and hope to travel back in time.

It makes me sad to watch them flicker out and die. I made them promise it was only taken down to be repaired, that the new sign was not permanent. They promised but they could have been lying.

Shannon Rose Jones built furniture in an incorporated town of Wisconsin before moving to Rhode Island sight unseen.