Behind large, black flaps was
A harvesting room my father simply
Titled “the Wholesaler.”
Pumps thrust water into small roiling seas,
Spritzing salty droplets
Into the dank and heavy cloak of air;
Soupy sunlight poured on
Damp wooden shelves housing one hundred stained,
Algae-clouded fish tanks;
Massive, thrumming generators awashed
The place with a dull roar,
Swallowing strained shouts into loud silence.
Thousands of fish drifted in suspension,
Still, before rapidly
Darting in disarray with a glass tap.
Dingy, humid and close,
The room pumped watery blood, and exhaled
The scent of the ocean.
It throbbed and heaved with life.
My sopping flip-flops squelched
Against cracked cement with each cautious step,
Gaze trained on a wall, while
My father shared the species of each fish
That caught my straying eye,
And confidently strode ahead of me.
I stopped, with wide eyes, and
Exclaimed at autumn mosaics glazing
Four large, glimmering coys,
Delicate fins swaying like elegant
Women’s evening dresses,
Then pivoted and faced neon parrotfish
Flecked with stippled marks, and
Bulbous pearlscales swiveling to see
With large, innocent eyes.
Dazzling masses of fish appeared in
Every corner of view,
Overwhelmingly vivid in color
And intricate designs:
Glinting, glassy, complex.
The raw pulse of the room transformed to that
Of a distant beachside,
Rhythmically paced by pounding machines like
Thunderous currents crashing;
Bathed in the briny tinge of seaweed and
The acrid scent of decay;
Crabs scuttling in plastic containers
As if trekking across
Rocky niches gently filled by clear pools.
Creatures from foreign seas
Retained otherworldly wildness with
Narrow faces and frayed fins,
Confined to Brazilian rivers and
African reefs by glass sheets.
The harvesting room brimmed with breathtaking
Life; its richness beyond