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Poetry and Medicine
October 25, 2000

Goldfish

Author Affiliations
 

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(16):2028. doi:10.1001/jama.284.16.2028

You wonder at the way I squirm and weep,
seeing him arch and strain
sideways against the gravel, orange scales
swelling and glittering with labored breath,
gills gaping red?
All day he has been gagging upon death,
heaving against its hook and holding fast.
So lay my father, stubborn to the last,
forcing the Fisherman to haul him in,
full fathom five up from the ocean floor,
silent, his eyes fixed wide, refusing compromise.
The future swims in me now, fetal limbs
flailing like fins; it nuzzles at my flank
like a small fish. You, if you press my belly,
feel the ripples flash beneath your hand.
But I can feel its fellows in the tank,
the shadow-fish. You understand?
Dying and quickening—the motions mesh
and side by side they shudder in my flesh.

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