Balloon Animal


His blood drips            from the piano wire.
          Sand dunes plot       and squeak
beneath our feet.       I could show you a magic trick,
                      transfigure a tiger-striped
shell into a namesake.     I’ll twist new faces
                        out of          blue plastic bottles
                       like balloon animals             scrunched up
                  from heat                            or the wince
        at a scaling knife               grazing his spine.
                           We share a bloodline.
I’ll trace it across my face,              savour the salt air
            of his breath                like when we were careless
teenagers, desperate                   to numb ourselves.
   I still feel the tang                              of that pulp
under my tongue,                                         pooling
          in the upside-down                          jellyfish reef
                   of my mouth.                   I’ll magic
           a new balloon animal                  from their anemones.
     Hold it behind the gills,                     slippery as grief.
                                      Hear it explode.

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Less Wonder


I was never taught how

to properly gut a fish, only told

to place them in a dry bucket


I’d watch as they’d thrash

and choke on air. Which knife

should I choose and where do I make


the first incision. At what angle

do I groove through her bones

Spoon her eyes with a bloodied finger


or freeze under their dying stare

When cutting her fins, should

I repurpose them into origami


cranes, turtles or fish. I could believe

her guts dye blue or green or black

depending on where you hook her


Do her scales singe at human touch

or hush like paintbrush hairs

Would you say I’m a gutless wonder


I cried when Dad called me that

He yelled to hold the yellow herring

high for a photo. I knew I could not


touch something I had killed

I wouldn’t know what to keep or toss

I want to throw some of it back


I want to throw all of her back.





first published by Voiceworks in their issue 121, “Root” published in Jan, 2021

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