By Madeleine Feola | Poetry | Spring 2021

Lemons, Ava Chessum

the betta fish is regrowing his fins. they come back frayed and translucent, the slightest edge shimmering the water around him. we had steeped him in antibiotics that turned the tank green, dredged the life from his pores. whatever was eating him alive.

living is an ugly thing, I’ve learned. at the frayed ends of it you’re making phone calls and buying medicine. paying hospital bills.

oh god but it’s tremulous and yours.

my life used to be large enough to drown in— a cup of blood, a pillar of salt. is this what getting better feels like? cutting down the heavy flesh that killed you slowly, that made you, until you hit the bone?

these days I’m that kind of slender. I walk home in the dark, peering into the corner spaces of people who are not me. the cooks locking up, walking past the quiet shadows of tables and chairs, the boyfriends waiting outside, awkward hands in their pockets. these things mean more to me now—more than me, maybe, more than you.