How often I have played the part of this poor fish
skewered by a barbed hook it mistook
for something benign
lying here on this bloody board
mouth and gills opening and closing
tail still trying to rudder it to safety.
It’s no use.
My father wants to show me how to clean my catch.
His long fingers with their carefully tended nails
insert a sharp, pointed knife, deftly
into the belly of the fish, just behind the gills.
An unrepentant assassin, he draws the blade
swiftly back toward the tail.
Pale pink coils tumble onto the board.
He eases the flesh from the bone
then from the skin, produces two
perfect fillets he will dip into milk
dredge in flour
then fry in his favorite pan
hanging above us from an iron hook.
Still, I watch for barbs.