for a day now i have watched the sticks of incense
burn next to the vase with the flowers
of goldenrod and white and lust red. days wondering,
why incense and flowers together?
flowers to brighten the mood of depression
arriving, questions of how to start a suicide manifesto,
incense to mask the smell of Embassys.

i come back a week later to find the flowers
have been replaced by a small yellow fish,
it’s lashes blue. on the antique tray (remember
later we had to play music on Cathedral Street
to raise ferry fee?) is a minute man,
the type with a bobbing head,
always agreeing and smiling,
two thing i find confusing.

i’ll not ask the meanings of these new objects,
maybe you’ve seen me study them
and decided to play tricks. you’ll keep switching
the objects until
i want to burn down your house.
that’s a thing you’d smile to, wouldn’t you?

a thought: did you change the water in the vase,
or does the fish swim soaked in their colours?
will it turn red overnight?

and now the question becomes,
will i burn the house with you in it?

the name of the fish comes to me,
the bluelashed butterfly fish.
i used to own one as a child,
or, a boyfriend of my mother’s,
a man from Bagamoyo, a conman who sold them to tourists,
and in place of shillings for candy
i got small fish that i ended up killing for sport,
or as revenge. who knows what these smiling men
who come to our houses bring with them,
what they take.

how did you know about this yellow fish?

I remember my mother’s wigs, and they were many,
all smelled of incense,
and the bobbing man, i had a similar one,
only his mechanics were broken.
i assumed his smile implied consent,
even happiness.

so at night i sneak out of bed, knowing you are awake,
at some imaginary place in your manifesto.
on the balcony i examine the objects,
study joints and anthems from the tree with a gaping hole,
asking for water, or saying ‘go’.
the fish swimming in a flood of soft moon,
it’s lashes like a drag queen’s.

i come back to your body in bed,
start with your legs, making my way
upward. some details i get wrong.
but you have one extra vertebrae,
so nature always has it’s motives with us.
a small system of bearings between spine
and head achieve a nod, tape keeps the lips
in a smile.

in the morning you’ll be next to the vase,
in a lovely blue wig. fish, new set of flowers
there with you, in our small alter.
you’ll bob your head, answer yes
to all my questions of love,

my wonderful miniature, my unnameable daughter,
my collector of antique trays,
we will re-enact the dances of Cathedral Street.


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