Fish in Bushwick

By | 5 December 2019

Today, today is all of time. Mahmoud Darwish

I trained my hand to do it without the eye.
In my palm held the flesh, felt the shrimp’s small sinews fall
to pieces in the sink, my fingers slick and the smell
of fish the smallest sound in this kitchen in Bushwick.
After a few fumbled tries, I gentle cut open the intestines, dozens of them
careful to keep the shit contained.

In between is a place, I said to Akram’s surprise,
and the words gave flesh to a familiar feeling.
In the silent moments of our night, he said it again and again
to ensure that the waning hours of night had not melted
away the buttered truth of an untrue thing. I have always been
only in-between. A small medium between countries and ways of saying
showerhead, deposit, three pounds of porgy, lightbulb.

I wonder what rawness has affected in how we see death,
a stage before consumption before the cooking of
a flesh to our body’s liking. He slid his finger into the
underbelly of the fish the butcher had cleaned with
wide leathered hands, a pinked knife clipping off the
scales in rows, iridescent waste plop upon cellophane. We
stuffed the belly of each fish with chopped aromatics,
garlic, jalepeño, cilantro, lemon, like his mother would be doing
in her kitchen in Gaza upon returning from the fish market,
selecting from what lay on the pillows of ice, keeping
watch for the fresh ones without blood in their unflinching eye.

We smoked cigarettes in Akram’s kitchen. His roommate’s
live-in girlfriend of two weeks watched us dance to
mahragan songs on YouTube, smoked with us while she did
the dishes and outside it rained. Multiple things are always
happening at once. We were new to each other, met a night on Second Ave and
settled into a stranger’s conversation for three days for fear of being
again lost to the mouth of this voracious city. I have not seen him since.

Then I had become a collector of my own memories, made
home in a plastic box of toiletries and a small shrine to my friends.
In between belongings, I become a museum of myself.
Akram said he left everything behind and did not turn back
to remember because the past is far away and there are
some impossible returns that float around the city like ghosts
haunting where they never were able to leave. Some
places are not memories or metaphors. They cannot be
captured in the net of thought or language or a thing you put in a box
or tuck into your flesh. Some places become metaphors
the further away we get.

I hunger for a memory flayed and ageing and it begins to stink,
looks up at me with a tiny blood in its unflinching eye, threatens
to become more raw and rotten by the second, indifferent to whether
I cook it delicious in time.

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