I Don't Talk Pretty


My family used to have a fish tank
filled with cute little fishies
that were more of a hindrance than a convenience:
clean the tank clean the tank clean the tank
my parents chanted, a laborious prayer
in which young hands were sacrificed
to the filthy fish filter, knuckles dressed
with the distinctive stench of gutted trout,
throats constricted and snaked with gags.
We recycled carnival fish like water bottles,
broken filters like crumpled papers filled with nonsense.
Years of a distilled childhood
diluted by foggy glass walls covered in
tropically-patterned, redundant paper.
It was not until I turned fourteen
that I emptied the fish tank I had
constructed around my larynx, a false protection;
I dumped the dead fish of scripted
apologies, etiquette embossed into my vocabulary
to make my words smaller, less significant.
I clawed out my filter.
for it was too weak to contain
the ocean building up in my throat.
My voice came out in waves;
I became a sophisticated sailor as I tried to pretty up
my uncouth, foul, fucked up tongue with grandiose metaphors.
I mumble, I scream, I stumble and stutter
but the words tumble out anyway.
No filter, no walls, no cover-ups:
My language is purely impure, and
bites like a shark, not like a goldfish.

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