the man from the fish market
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR