Veronica Golos

Issue #
April 29, 2020

Chinatown Fish Market, New York, Circa Unknown

Each Friday, the mother and the girl
rode the D train to Canal Street station
and walked to the crossroads
of Canal, Baxter and Walker,
to the fish markets Wing Ly, Win Choy, Hong Keung, New Hai Cang
where mounds of grouper, swordfish, salmon,
closed clams and oysters, curled shrimp spread
on beds of piled ice, sleeping
it seemed to the girl, like at camp, as if the fish were dreaming
in glittering wet bunk-beds
and the shoppers were parents come
to take them home to a welcome
bar-b-q with hamburgers, hot dogs, mustard,
those special rolls made in the shape of the meat;
and, the girl thought, there would be lawns
wet with sprinklers, the water's spray
rainbowing over many children and fish, playing,
and she saw this as if she peered at the world through a scrim,
at a blue incessant sky where everyone, including
fish, would walk toward happiness, but

each Friday the lobsters clawed at their tanks,
and the black cod, trout, sea bass mouths
were always slightly open
as if they were about to pronounce their own secret fish names,
names the girl wanted to know, but
they'd kept silent, and
each Friday she'd known again what hunger does,
and in this place knew
that sometimes it was her own language she didn't understand,
didn't quite fit into the world,
didn't see it the same way others did, as if she were tipped
sideways, like the little teapot into the sopping sidewalks,
their raucous volume of push and shove,
the adults who never looked at her, the pink
gills of the fish, their clear eyes, their bodies of scale and flesh,
dainty bones her mother always told her to watch out for,
they were all swimming into a daylight, were all joined
in a dance no one had a name for, something the girl felt
in her own throat, emptied of

Previously published in Girl
(3: A Taos Press 2019)

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