by Jasmine Cui
A man is not a fish, but we fled
in a boat better suited for fishing.
Its hull reeked of salt
rot and desperation. There,
I learned to mistake nausea
for excitement. My mother is not
a fish, but the immigration officer
looks at her as if she were a trout—
weak and oafish. His lips are a study
in slow motion, words crawling
forth like an infant. He is trying
to speak fish. My father is not a fish,
but his father was a carpenter. I watch
him slit soapstone and the skin on his neck
as he learns to breathe foreign
air through the gaps in his throat.
I am not a fish, but on land I forget
how to breathe when I see police officers.
They wear rain slickers during the wet season
and look like fishermen. A man is not a fish,
but the harbor is our mecca
where fishmongers sell skate and salmon
for pennies and white men expose
their greedy bellies asking for more.
Jasmine Cui is 17 years old and is majoring in Political Science, Economics, and Violin Performance at SUNY Geneseo. She aspires to be like her parents who are first-generation Americans that fought an extraordinary battle for their place in this country. This is her first time being published.