In the Wild

Men send scalers across fish sides.

I catch their shining flakes on newspaper under the gutting table. 
When I have enough, I hide in the bathroom, press their sequins 

to my body, practice lips in the mirror. Scales at my elbow form a fin.
A gill to cover my long neck. Mucus sticks the fish parts to my body. 

I open & close my mouth, protrude my tongue. What does a fish do with its 
tongue? Some fish have teeth on their tongue. Some fish have girl parasites

that eat the tongue & take its place. Her eyes will shrink, her legs stretch out,
& she anchors herself in the mouth. The fish is minimally damaged.

When the fish dies, the girl parasite leaves the mouth,
clings to the head or body. No one knows 

what happens next.

“In the Wild” by Jennifer Conlon, from Taking to Water, copyright © 2023 by Jennifer Conlon. Used by permission of Autumn House Press.