Fish Cleaning

By on Oct 21, 2013 in Poetry

Boy and father fishing, with superimposed knife, in negative

How many years
had it threaded the hunger,
eluding death’s stars
embedded in the depths of blindness?

I had hoped the pull
on my slender line
was some shy sea maiden
tempting me back to innocence.

But my father’s rule was clear:
You catch it, you clean it,
or go hungry.

Now his knives, bone handled,
lie glittering in the sun,
and my fish lies on the cutting board,
motionless as leaves in moonlight.

My father’s huge hand guides mine
down the silver seam
and I feel the universe
split open
and spill its secret in my hands,
oozing organs in rich profusion.

They resemble slimy jewels,
the heart the size of a ring,
just a dead thing, not love,
and with the stench
my own guts rise
in sympathy and horror.
I hear my father’s breathing
behind me and above.

Later, I sit alone
under a maple bleeding autumn.
I look away from my fish
at the water a crocodile green.
A distant curtain of light
slips down the horizon like a thief.

I look back at my fish
and through tears watch my fingers
pluck the white feathers of its flesh.
I devour it, all of it,
with shame, rage and joy.
Like Adam
one day out from paradise.




Sean Lause lives in Bluffton, Ohio, with his son Christopher and their cockatiel, Maria. His poems have appeared in The Minnesota Review, The Alaska Quarterly, Another Chicago Magazine, The Beloit Poetry Journal and Poetry International. His first book of poems, Bestiary of Souls, was published in 2013 by FutureCycle Press. His favorite poets are Emily Dickinson, Rimbaud, and The Ramones.