Where are you and your fish really from by Yilin Wang

Poet Name: Yilin Wang Poem Title: Where are you and your fish really from? Poem: Be careful about scams, Māmā warned before I left for China. A “fresh catch” is often farmed 鱼 trapped in the Yangtze for a few days before it’s fished back out and renamed wild river 鱼. When I order Water-Boiled Fish 水煮鱼 in Celestial Women Town, I don’t expect the waiter to lead me and my white American friend to a 鱼 tank, point at one, and ask, is that one okay? Slap its slimy scales against concrete, loud thuds, flopping 鱼 murdered in bright daylight. Crimson proof they’re feeding me freshly-killed 鱼. Does the 鱼 feel more pain if we choose it and watch it bleed? My friend gasps with horror-movie terror, her legs still shaky on foreign soil. I wring my hands; fifteen years of Vancouver rain have softened me into a bruised Banana, the walls of supermarkets and my veins all bleached, sterile white. Another friend had told me it’s fine to eat animals if you feel enough guilt, if you don’t enjoy their tastes, if you don’t assign their fates. Buddhists in the past used to fàng shēng—buy 鱼 from the chopping block, set it free. I could visit a roadside fàng shēng stall that sell 鱼 to sinners seeking redemption, but would throwing 鱼 into unknown waters win me 鱼 karma points or bloat the purse of fish-catchers? Every day, countless 鱼 are beheaded on both sides of the Pacific. Our 鱼’s ghost arrives, whole and naked, its bulged eyes glaring. Skeletal head, bony dagger tail, sharp on both ends. A blood bath of numb peppercorns and hot chili sauce. Our bellies bulge and explode. We raise teacups to toast the world’s tastiest 鱼鱼鱼. End of Poem. Credits: Copyright © Yilin Wang Previously published in Arc Poetry Magazine, Summer 2019 Issue Yilin Wang is a writer, editor, and Chinese-English translator. Her writing has appeared in Clarkesworld, The Malahat Review, Grain, CV2, carte blanche, The Toronto Star, The Tyee, and elsewhere. She has been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize, a finalist for the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction, and longlisted for the Peter Hinchcliffe Short Fiction Award. Her translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Pathlight, Samovar, and Living Hyphen. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is a member of the Clarion West Writers Workshop 2020/2021. She is currently at work on revising her debut poetry chapbook.