A poem by Leo Yung.
At six months I was taken
from my mother, who I never saw again,
carted off to an unfamiliar place
of narrow, shallow pools, grit and gravel,
a scorching sun beating down on my back.
When I thought I would lay out to die,
the hand stretched out to save me,
clean me, feed me,
wash me, hug me,
soft fingers stroking my adolescent coat,
almost a substitute.
The hand would make me do movements
I could not understand. Why should I
arch my back and put my two front fins together?
The wet, glistening sound was unnatural, as was
hobbling across the burning floor after a striding man.
But the hand would not feed me otherwise. I
stared at it, and it was spectacularly mute.
Day after day I was paraded before crowds
Of shouts and screams, flashes and waves. It
did me in, even as I did as I was told. The hand
fed me, petted me. I did all I could, following it,
parade after parade, week after week,
until my fins and belly could take no more and I
would not follow,
then the hand never fed me again. Instead
foreign fingers offered fish to my weary head
after the chink of coin and whisper of paper.
I slept in the shallows, hungry, lying in stale water.
Days flitted by in unforgiving sun.
I dreamt little,
tried not to dream of the hand.