“La Belle Époque of Goldfish” by Tonya Lailey

Tonya Lailey


In the fish world many things are told by sound waves.
—Rachel Carson

On the radio I hear goldfish
are out and about to take over
waterways they’ve been making
hay in stormwater ponds gone thick
with themselves I listen to the story
about the photographer who walked past
a pond spread with marmalade
and did a double take took a picture
presumed the citrus light belonged
to the water which it did though
not only and the thing we keep missing
that bodies touch bodies embody
that there’s a whole free
from the bowl the bag the fish get big
67 oz. pop bottle big they make more
of themselves—surprise!—Carlos K.
Krinklebine on steroids on repeat 20,000
in a slough the length of a football
field water a slurry murk like turf
and not a bad turn out for the game
considering it assembled from a few
forsaken souls that had been bobbing
in a slosh of inches in plastic tied-off
slight golden caudal lobes and fin
rays fluttering as petals in a breeze harmless
the furthest tissues from a threat
now on the other side of the clear
in numbers competing
fierce for the wild for the 1000
years lost to bowls to being decorative
to living their littlest lives as jewels
in the eyes of children, grown ups
just as starved for a way out
into the web of living waters.

from Poets Respond
May 12, 2022


Tonya Lailey: “We seem to operate in wild switches between control and abandon, neglect. I keep coming back to our common sense of feeling unrelated to everything else, like we’ve forgotten our kinship with other lives. And, oh, the ravenous growth of the goldfish given the right opportunity, given an environment, given favourable environmental conditions. The goldfish seem to be having their day in the sun. I can’t help imagining a running list of creatures all having their own Belle Époques.”

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