In the Former French Concession

1 May 2018

I see them from my bedroom,
pegged beside the neighbour’s
smog-coloured slips,
and on street corners
in the black thatch of power lines:
fish dried crisp, leaf-print bodies
honed to bone,
mined for eyes and eggs,
scales and fins mixed
in the gutter with other rubbish,
fish winched between drying ducks
round as spuds, rich with flesh,
bronze fish jangling above tourists,
causing arguments between neighbours,
taut in the wind, fish
big as tables, headless fish,
fish curved and smooth as boat hulls,
split and spread flat like sails
turning white in the white weather,
wearing a crest of frost.

Above me in the Former French Concession:
several small fish on the wire ravel
of a coathanger, cured
of saltiness, unscented as soap,
beside themselves in the wet market
rows and rows of brineless silence,
last night’s meal needled
with bones, on Jiashan Road
those that have dried their time are for sale,
the new twisting over footpaths
still tiled with scales,
eyes cataracted by cloud,
pious and quiet,
kids in a fish-trance
staring up into silver dizziness,
fish bones scattered like scratch marks
where cats get fed,
in the entrance to my apartment
two little fish
hang
in the window
like neighbours’ faces.

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