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after Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Fish’

 
On the first day, we ate the trout
with its skin on. Scales in my teeth.
You said: let the knife do the work.

*

The second day, I laid the fish out
onto its side; I pinched its edge and slid
the blade clean between fat and muscle.

*

Not all rainbow: here, tender orange,
there, rusted brown, the underside
gelatinous and white. Then the bones.

*

Over lunch, the man and the woman
carved fillets from each other
one word at a time.

*

The cat licks remnants of flesh
from flayed skin. Its tongue:
red, methodical, and barbed.

*

Nothing left for the third day
save the offcuts. Cubes of cured
trout layered on pickles and rice.

*

How to multiply one fish into many—
my mother ties an unseen knot. The string
is invisible, but the hooked fish still pulls.

 

Eileen Chong is an Australian poet who was born in Singapore of Chinese descent. She is the author of eight books. Her most recent full-length poetry collection is Rainforest from Pitt Street Poetry. Her work has shortlisted for numerous prizes, including twice for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award. She lives and works in Sydney, Australia. www.eileenchong.com.au

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