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Fish Story

Fish Story
by Vonnie Winslow Crist

In winter, the rasping
of scaler as it snagged and tore
pulled my lips back.
My teeth hurt.
The pike’s mouth was open, too.
I stared
at its zigzag of tooth.
With each stroke the fish shivered.
With each stroke iridescent disks
pattered the Sunday Sun’s comics.

One scale balanced
on an index finger, I imagined
a million milky circles sewn together.
Mermaids wore such cloaks, Pop said,
and he was the sea.
His smell was crabs, oysters, and engine oil.
His hair, parted low on the left, stretched
like white, soft seagull wings
across a windburned scalp.

Pop wielded the knife with finesse.
His hands, victims
of hooks and fins, now took their payback.
He lopped off the head, tail.
The tail was ridged like a potato chip,
shaped like buttercups.  
The head?
I sighed when the head was off,
the black eye gone.

He slit the belly.
Fishguts plopped out
glimmering like rubies, moonstones, pearls.
The scent of ocean stung my nostrils.
My breath tasted of salt.
Queasy, still I inhaled deeper,
thought of the jewel hidden in a toad’s skull,
and believed.

* * *

Previously published by Lite Circle Books in V.W. C.'s collection of poems & illustrations, Essential Fables (1996).

* * *

Vonnie Winslow Crist, BS Art-Ed, MS Professional Writing, Towson University, is author-illustrator of The Enchanted Skean (YA fantasy novel), "Owl Light" and "The Greener Forest" (speculative stories), "River of Stars" and "Essential Fables" (myth-based poetry), "Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales" (children's book), and several sf/f eBooks. Her poems have been published in Canada, Australia, Italy, Finland, the UK, and USA. A Pushcart nominee and 2014 Finalist for the Compton Crook Award, she's won writing awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future, and elsewhere. Vonnie believes the world is filled with mystery, magic, and miracles, and celebrates the power of myth in her writing and art.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?  

As a child, I not only read lots of books, but listened to my older relatives tell the most marvelous family stories. It wasn't long before I was telling stories using both words and art. I've worked hard over the years to hone my craft as a writer and artist. But when I look in the mirror, I see a storyteller with a need to tell tales -- a need as powerful as the need to breathe. I write because I can't imagine not writing!