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The Eel Question

An East Asian nematode is threatening the European eel population

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday, poetry
April 4, 2023

Researchers have been unable to locate the spawn sites of eels but they think they’re adjacent to purgatory

In Chinatown, a friend squirms at the mandala of eels awaiting its garlic skirt

When I return, the bullfrogs stare from their glass cave

I haggle for 皮蛋粥 & my Mandarin humiliates me

My mother’s favorite brand of canned eel is Old Fisherman: thumb-sized fillets with fermented beans to flavor her noodles

The eels of the US Japan Expedition smile, cast their recursive shadows onto the leaves  

At a conference someone told me it’s innately feminine to reject resolution—that the domain of woman is expansive, meditative, & resists conclusion

Here it means something about virtue to keep your moods to yourself, even if my blood demands the drama of incense & burning coals

Is infestation a supply chain issue

An East Asian nematode is threatening the European eel population

The parasite dispels its eggs through the long cavity of the eel’s body, & the eel shits out the eggs, then reconsumes them through the medium of a copepod; then it collapses the swim bladder

The metaphors are so obvious they embarrass me

I wish I spoke the dialect of the re-hided drum 

For a while my mother was more terrified of white strangers than the plague

What do you even say to that

When I left Chinatown a man leaned out of his car window & barked at me—the second time in twelve hours

You could gaze into the pool of shame & plunge your arm into it, & if you reach far enough you’ll spawn into the guts of wet soil, somewhere close to revelation or sex

Like how the most intimate way to know someone is to hold their organs in your hands

In Trieste, Freud slashed hundreds of eels in search of testicles 

Covered in red & white blood, he wrote to a friend: All I see when I close my eyes is the shimmering dead tissue, which haunts my dreams

Glass—gossamer—one long thrumming muscle & a disintegrated stomach

How are you going to honor the bodies that live in your body? someone asks—& all I can think is what I want for my next life: squash flowers, fish that feeds other fish

The ouroboros says the problem with everything is death

When eels return to the open ocean, they’re electrified for thousands of miles by fat reserves alone

Can you blame the dead for believing they were rays of sun