Sarah Bonifacio

To the Fighting Fish

"To be able to paint it, I had to kill it, and that was a pity with such a beautiful beast." -Van Gogh on his painting Emperor Moth (1889)


Even asleep I hear them:
spines, blue-skinned but inherently
silver, knifing the yellow water
through and through.

Once, twice, a skull strikes
the glass-sudden, light,
but every time struck
out of fury,

its bowl an insufficient theater
for a fin that rises and falls
outrageously, like a villainous cloak.


Mornings, we face each other.
Its head, a mound of purple
obtrusions, glares like a bullet;
its eyes, two coals, offer a dare-
not to feed but to touch it:

grasp the tail that flickers
to an arrogant flourish;
probe the black grooves
of its gelatinous belly;
feel for a heart.

It has small teeth, after all,
and may only nibble;
I can easily crush it
between my two fingers
to still its writhing.


Instead, a thumb rubs the bowl’s face
at noon to clear out the fog.

And then I watch how tirelessly
the fish sweeps its bone-broom

over the magenta rocks, its body
never gripped by rest or suffocation.

Sometimes it gains momentum
like an arrow-worm,

spinning through the water
its easy song ...

Chaetognatha, chaetognatha;
jelly-sliver of light, legless ballerina;

swiftly and smartly it moves,
surely and blindly-

a bloodless torpedo that will,
because it can, shatter the glass
erected between us.


Return to Volume 3.1






All files © 2005-2012 Blood Orange Review