Su Min Kim

To speak for fish

Silver-scaled salmon bare their white stomachs
at the open fish markets of Noryangjin. Their fins cock slightly
in a half-hearted farewell, their eyes clouded over
like spoilt milk. I clutch my sister’s hand.
Don’t be afraid, they’re dead! she says, but one fish quivers
on its side. We parade in yellow raincoats and
polkadotted boots down the exhibition of the dead.
Grandfather greets us, puffing up gentle clouds
with his cigar. He coughs a toothy grin. A mouth full of leaden teeth.
My little princess, you’ve gotten so big! He pats my head
with hands smelling of urine. He takes my wrist,
colored the underbelly of bass, and slaps my hand
to the side of a salmon adorned in ice. It flinches —
I flinch. Its tailfin thrashes wildly. My small hands curl
into pale rocks. Cold skin. Warm scales.
This guy’s still strugglin’ a bit, eh? chuckles Grandfather, pouring
more ice. I wonder if fish can feel their bones freezing
over, a lacquered coat of sea glass bruising lilac and blue, if
ice cubes in their mouths gag all the words they have left. Watching
fish, I am left red, an ice cube in my mouth,
melting away like lemon drops, Grandfather’s finger against
my lips. I want to spit, despite my lips, juices trickle
down my chin, a floral scent, and the fish watches me,
choked with ice, daring me to spit, spit in front of it,
drowned in ice. And I can’t. So I swallow, throat
ravaged by silver scales, words gurgling in my mouth,
holding the words of fish in the pits
of my white stomach.

©2016 by the author. Used with permission.

About Su Min Kim
I am currently a budding writer attending Bergen County Academies. I enjoy taking long walks in the sun, playing my guitar, reading a book in one sitting, and, of course, writing about whatever fancies me at the moment. I am also one of the editors of my school’s newspaper as well as our school’s science magazine. Although I have a variety of interests, journalism has always been a big part of me; I love sifting through the New York Times and National Geographic.
Writer's Statement
I write because it’s a way to both express myself and convey my ideas to someone else. I think that the ability to sway someone’s emotions is a wonderful and powerful skill to have. I write about whatever little observations I make about my life each day or some other event that inspired me to write, whether it be a political article that I read about racial tensions or my experience with spending a simple evening in the city. Or sometimes, the idea comes spontaneously.