by Tara E. Jay


Disappeared, all but the bottom-sucking
Plecostomus, its fins shredded
like butter lettuce. A fish on sale

first acclimated in, then cut from
its knotted bag. Tiger-striped. Devoured
all my vibrant Mollies.

And the delicate darting ones with
translucent scales; their organs clusters
of pebbles behind their slit-gills.

I was a child, the meanest fish
mine to neglect—and something in me
craved watching

some predatory thing suffer.
I let the calcium build its toxic castles
and the algae fuzz the glass. Topped off

the tank with our coppery
well water, straight from the hose fed
through the bedroom window.

Cruelest to let it survive
with slime in its gills. And it was hardy
as an evergreen, gaping rhythmically—

company I couldn't look at. 
Unwanted pet. Soundless as a child
waiting all of it out.