Elegy to a goldfish

Matthew Dickman
Med J Aust 2013; 199 (7): 509. || doi: 10.5694/mja13.10188
Published online: 7 October 2013

I can’t remember when

my brother and I decided to kill you, small

fish with no school, bright and happy at the bottom

slipping through the gate

of your fake castle. I think it was winter. A part of us

aware of the death outside, the leaves

being burned up and the squirrels starving

inside the oaks, the sky

knocking its clouds into the ashtray of the city.

And it might have been me

who picked you up first, who

chased you around the clean bowl of your life

and brought you up into the suffocating

elevator of ours. And I want to say it was my brother

who threw you against the wall

like a drunk husband, the glow-worm inch of you

sliding down the English Garden

of wallpaper, and that it was me who raised my leg

like a dog, me who brought my bare foot

slamming down on your almost nothing ribs

and felt you smear like a pimple. Now that’s something

I get to have forever. That Halloween-candy-

sized rage, that cough drop

of meanness. And your death, only

the beginning, the mushy orange autopsy

reminded us of mandarins, Navels, bloods, Persians

the sweet Valencia. And when our sister

who must have thought of you all day

came home to find the bowl

empty, looked at us, my brother and me

I remember we started to laugh. And then

it might have been me

though it could have been him, who thought to open

the can of tangerines, who pulled

one of the orange bodies out of the syrup, and threw it at her

this new artificial you, chasing her around the house

screaming Eat him! Eat him!

but it was me who held her down on her bed

and him who forced

her mouth open, and it was me who pushed

the sticky fruit into her throat

like a bloody foot

into a sock. You had only been gone for one hour

and yet the sky outside

turned black and red, the tree in the yard thrashed back

and forth until its spinal cord

broke, and my little sister, your one love, flashed white

and pulsed like neon

in a hospital, her eyes

rolling back into the aquarium of her head

for a moment, and in every country

countless deaths, but none as important

as yours, tiny Christ, machine of hope, martyr of girls and boys.

  • Matthew Dickman

  • Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, Vt, USA.



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