Fish Hospital

by Tanya Muzumdar

the only basement lights were goldfish.
             he fed his fish. he felt

                                      he was dropping help in their holes.
             every time they ate, they ate
                         flakes as if flakes were lands above.
they ate earth, ate air, unsated.
                                       one fish overdosed & floated
          head down, tail up.

                       shrunk to fish-size, standing on a food flake,
                                                 he poled across the tank,
oaring with his needle, gliding sometimes, resting it in the track marks
                          on his arm.
                                                  he poled to the fish, slow as anesthesia

                          he poled, water wicking up the needle.
the flake he steered shaken by little boils of fish.

                                                   new fish hatched. new fish fed. elders fed.
            the light blinking off their dorsal sides,
                                                   elder fish circled, silver & purposeful as gurneys.

i did surgery on that fish, he said,
i used a needle—diabetic.

                        up its bloated swim bladder, he slid the needle,
                                                                           withdrew a nipple of air.

           then the needle heavy as a wood oar
                                                                           hit him down,
                                                 down to the floor.
                                    his wife found his blue brow bone, his yellow eyelid.
                                                  the tank. the needle.
the mobile of baby fish whirling.

Tanya Muzumdar teaches at North Central Michigan College and is the editor of Dunes Review. Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Nashville Review, Prairie Schooner, Superstition Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Vinyl, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a fellowship from Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.