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the man from the fish market

CAS for Database

Katie Tian

Jericho, NY, USA


how can i pull a kind of reckless

reminiscence from the fish market

in town—on sundays i go alone.

the gardenias are unwatered

upon my return, the chamomile

unsteeped, toppling odds one over

another over another, but i can

only wring the salt from my sundress

and fill my mouth with brine. i scribble

on soiled parchment—to my husband

but he will not be home until the ink

bleeds dry. the fish eyes are seething

blind so i sever sinew from bone,

bone carved of alabaster, simmered

and made into stew for a blind man’s

dinner. he will return riding the coattails

of a beer-battered high with not even

counterfeit love to give. i rock

in an armchair and think of this love,

cut from the lining of a singed oyster

shell, this love, wasted. before the

decades lit themselves atop kerosene

stoves. i encountered a man at the

fish market on a sunday who gave

to me a spiraling romance in the ashes.

now, i tear the soft flesh of an apricot

naked from its pit and suck its nectar from

my gaping wounds—do you crave my

touch as much as i crave yours? stranger—

you should see the acropolis i built

for you in my dreams. we are more

and more than this, you said. you

promised me a home amongst the

seabirds and white coral reefs. you

promised me more than a half-baked

existence, so where are you now? now,

i lay a gallery of scraps on the beaten

cobblestone and wait for the coyotes

to feast at dusk. they say if the fever

does not kill you the loneliness will.

they say it is easier to play pretend. and

it is not until i have taped cellophane

ghosts to the sills and hung the linen

to dry that i recall, the man from the

fish market i married—but look what

has become of us now. strangers now.

look—the tides are ever in flux, shifting.

look—i can no longer water the

roots of my saltwater fantasy.

look—how can i con serendipity?

pray that this life—clean, scale, gut—

is only a prototype for the next.


Beautiful and deadly. The interaction between love and cruelty. “the man at the fish market” reimagines domesticity as an anchor — an excruciating reprise, something tortuous, like the severing of “sinew from bone,” love unfulfilled, love unrequited. Not only does it take us through a startling array of emotions, imagery, and intense — yet at times quiet — introspection, this work begs us to consider the role of the fish, not the moment it is killed — but what happens in the precious time after. Namely, “clean, scale, gut,” wishing to be reincarnated from this life to another one, mirrors of how humans crave what they once had. In a way, perhaps we are all just fish, little creatures waiting for what this traitorous existence has promised us — and ultimately getting none of it at all.

Katie Tian is a sixteen-year-old Chinese-American writer from Long Island, NY. She has been recognized by Hollins University, Smith College, the Adelphi Quill Awards, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Her work is published in Frontier Review, Kissing Dynamite, and Rising Phoenix Review, among others. In her free time, she enjoys collecting stuffed animals and consuming obscene amounts of peanut butter straight from the jar.


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