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Grandmother, this fish tattoo is the only thing keeping me alive

by Jennifer Hanks


on days when I want to hurt my wrist but not these danios, blue specks of a past when I
slept with a man, kept a tank with withering plants and these reasonable schools always
circling. The cherry shrimp molting, dying, I was always traveling to Chinatown for crystal
invertebrates. Grandmother, I am a slut but you know that, prescient as your ghost is with its
bird-claws dug into my shoulders. A slut who can’t take off their clothes in the best of
situations. I remember how magnetic you were in pictures–how even in black and white I
could tell your lipstick was the crimson you can crush a man under, leave his collar dirty,
leave a temporary fossil record. You lost that love for your body, but I never had it to begin
with. If I could mourn myself. If I could mourn myself the way I mourned the tetra whose
belly ruptured before my eyes, maybe I could cut into myself like a block of cheese (I don’t
interest myself the way gouda interests me, the way I want women to feel things about their
bodies I can’t feel about my own). You, grandmother, would understand not dying is an
active state, where I vibrate with world-bits in my legs and chest and wrists. Crystal shrimp.
Pulling J’s hair. Shredded potatoes I pick off my shirt and eat.