Writers' Circle
Fish Market

Emily Paskevics writes about a vivid encounter at the market in Sonsonate, El Salvador

I must look like someone
you love. Next to the stall where a man
slaps the life out of eels before spilling
them wide, your embrace precedes you,
gathers me in so that my face presses
into the sweet-sour smell of your hair –
you are suddenly my brief respite
from the hot thrash of the fish market
around us. And you’re so delighted
to see the woman you seem to think I am
that you’re squealing, and when we peel
apart my neck is damp from your tears
and the mixed salt of our sweat. I don’t
know the words or the name that you
keep exclaiming. I’ve been on a tour bus
all week and I don’t really know
where I am anymore. I mumble sorry
and thank you in every language
that I’ve ever bought a traveller’s
phrasebook for, wondering
whether I’m drunk again
or dreaming, delirious from
the stink and the sun – or whether
you’re just crazy and I should play along.
I can be your long-lost granddaughter.
You must have a whole life of stories
to tell me, and I have a few secrets
to share. You touch my cheek with
your fingertips. This is when someone
takes a picture of us, capturing an angle
of the bucket of blood nearby, quiet
on a plastic tabletop slick with oil
and scales. A plate of red fruit waits
next to a pile of entrails, beneath
the gleam of a fillet knife – wielded,
precisely, by a child. Over your shoulder
I watch as he forces the blade into the bony
strips between pelvic fins, up to the jaws
of fish after fish. Patting my hand
with your own, you press a fishbone
into my palm. The sun sweats our backs.
The market seethes. I think you
kissed me goodbye.

Emily Paskevics (BA 2010 VIC) graduated with a degree in history from the University of Toronto.

Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by D. Gonzalez on December 28th, 2013 @ 11:28 am

Makes me think of the different places and times that people can come across. Very good, and a beautiful country if you ever get the chance to visit.

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