My Mother Worked on a Salmon Barge in Homer, Alaska
for a brief summer in 1986, mornings were spent taking a knife to the bellies of fish, taking tweezer to pin bones calcified nerve endings translucent, stubborn. she became an expert at slicing through in one clean swish, separating skin from flesh, leaving behind a sheet of scales that shimmered like a disco ball dress and wow she hated that job. the skin of her hands rejected the fish, her flesh began to bubble, toil trouble: she began growing sores, her fingernails turning black, mottled brown, falling off a med-evac copter whisked her away and a doctor declared: an infection wednesday nights growing up, she always served salmon, always, and the smell of it raw on the counter reminds me of her. other smells that remind me of her: lilac she once said was her favorite scent and from then on, when i think of her: purple. listerine, another smell that screams mother when the three of us girls got lice she poured listerine on the tops of our heads and trapped it beneath plastic caps, the alcohol burning strong, burning our eyes and later, while combing our hair, finding the small translucent eggs, she said ah, so that’s why they call it nit-picking we were young, our scalps full of itch and i didn’t know then, that was where love hid not in the big sweeping gestures but in the small: the pin-bones, the nits
About the Author
Aiden Baker is a writer and educator based in Berkeley, California. Her work can be found in Witness, The Ninth Letter, Newfound, and elsewhere.