Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Female Fish

Female Fish

By Chia Chi Tu

The female fish lay helpless on her palm—
her moist softness recalled a girl’s skin at seventeen
but the slight bulge in her abdomen defined her womanhood,
her clear but empty eyes, the hint of a mother’s gentleness lingering.
She remembered the seafood stall in the market just a moment ago—
the fishmonger’s knife slitting open the white jade belly of the fish,
a thread of blood water oozing from the cut,
a mass of roe pouring out like sands of gold.

Waking that morning, she found a patch of blood, irrelevant on her bed.
Her watery face, untouched by cosmetics, would be paler than usual those few days.
Even harder to bear would be the piercing pain of a few awls in her tummy.
Wearing her plain haircut and school uniform, she sat in the old-fashioned classroom,
listening to the teacher’s explication of the meaning of life as joy after suffering
but noticing instead the teacher’s three-inch stilettos and her luscious lips.

That night, the tide ebbed and flowed, bringing the Creator’s command—
Tonight, it is tonight, all creatures in the water must mate.
Squid tentacles vibrated in urgency—a couple dancing in passion.
All the male fish swam in hot pursuit just behind the female fish,
awaiting the most masculine moment in the intermittent welcome and rejection.
Riding the crests of her breathing were the enormous waves beating inside her body.
Rainbow corals emitted their spawn all at once like flowers raining from heaven.
She was a woman, she was a fish, she rose from the water,
moonlight glistening on her white body, almost transparent.
She pressed every inch of moonlight into her naked skin.
In her female intuition, she knew from then on she would be sensuous and beautiful.
Some fluid flowed down the root of her thigh.
On the golden sand beside her footprints were a few drops of crimson dew.

Her face could mist sunlight into moon glow.
Men could not withstand that supernatural wave of attraction.
Yet she is always lost and bewildered.

She can never understand why men lust to rise above the many around them.
Every full moon, she raises her head to look at the sky,
a fish floating above the water to gaze at her homeland.
On the moon, she traces the shadow of a woman in grief—
when the woman’s man devoted himself to shooting down all the suns on earth,
she chose exile on the ice and desolation of the moon.

She keeps thinking of the shoals of silvery fish gliding freely in the deep ocean blue.
She keeps thinking of salmon swimming half the globe to give birth in their first home.
She keeps thinking of salmon caught by fishing boats or swallowed by bears on their way home before they can leave their eggs.
Is the secret code of life engraved into the palm or is it hidden in the genes?
The flounders’ ecstasy mating tail upon tail is as distant as her last life’s memory.
So feminine in appearance, she has never performed feminine acts
like cooking dinner for a family, letting a young life grow in her womb.
Only the liquid blood overflowing from the depths of her body and the pain of her bloated tummy,
as the moon waxes and wanes, once every thirty days—the samsara of death and rebirth…

Translated by Agnes S. L. Lam

Biography

a photo of Chia Chi Tu

Chia Chi Tu completed her Ph.D at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). She taught at the Independent Learning Centre (CUHK) for several years and created a website on contemporary new poetry in Chinese. She is currently a freelance writer and teaches part-time. Representative publications include The witch’s song (Su Yeh Publications), a poetry collection, and I am, I am not (Su Yeh Publications), a book of essays, both published in Chinese.

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