That summer—so like, the summer
I was depressed—the lake we lived
next to dried up. It had been there
for as long as I remembered, serving
as pool in summer and as ice rink in
winter, so I didn’t know what to think
staring at the grimy, trash-infested
hole it had now become. It was being
poisoned from the inside and no one knew.
You know some nights the dark thoughts grow loose
out of the soil and leach into my house /
My room becomes an anoxic pond and I am a fish
with gills that have long ceased to function /
Maybe all it’s ever known is darkness and suffocation
and spitting out what little toxic food it’s given /
Maybe if you stab me in the gullet it’ll feel liberating
The word ‘mother’ bubbles out of my mouth
like a dormant volcano: we keep a distance
just about right because we never know
when one of us might blow. People hesitate
to approach us. I grow hesitant to approach her.
We become two fish fighting for light
in this sunless pond. And since all the
plants in our house have already died,
maybe it is my turn
Now of course the lake didn’t all dry up
at once—it took weeks. And there was
always fish in the lake,
even when there was less than a bowlful
of murky water left. I expected to see
dead fish everywhere
when the lake disappeared but there was
none. All the carp and the smelt and even
the smallest of tadpoles
were gone without a trace. I wonder what
it feels like to be wiped out off the face of
the earth without a trace.
I wonder what it feels like to erase your own
existence. By the way, do you think people
wonder where the fish went?
Do they even care? Or are they completely
uninterested? Because either way it’s fine
for the fish, they’re dead now.
Summer is not a good time
for being depressed. It’s bright out till 8 p.m.
and it’s bright when you wake up and kids are always out playing
and plants are blooming and alive. Everything is just too alive
What does it mean to be alive? The word becomes a rope
tugging my tongue back into the cave it rests in, choking
down hollowed songs that echo inside the ceiling of my mouth—
You know how the lake constantly changed form but it was still always there?
if I realized that people change like that too—will they stop leaving?
This is it. Every inhalation feels like swallowing
acid and my vision is blurred and my insides destroyed.
I open my mouth for air and all my lungs can catch is a glimpse
of illusionary oxygen. This is it. Will anyone ever stop to think about the fish
in the lake? How I kept swimming with the last of my strength because they told me
there’s always hope, to look at the sun and smile, to just take a breath?
All the blurry image of the sun does is tease me, taunt me
with its light knowing that if I reach out
to grab it—if I try to leave
I belong here. And I will die
with my eyes open
Sal Kang is a multifaceted artist who currently works at an art museum and makes tender lo-fi tracks in her bedroom when she has a moment to spare. She also designs spreads for a magazine and runs weekly poetry workshops for young adults in her local community. Sal’s work has been published in Gravitas and more, and her first collection of poetry is scheduled for release in fall 2019.