POEM: Wet Market

Water snakes writhe in a plastic pan of clear water.

Massively muscled fish lie eye-up, tail jutting over air, as torsos rest on a bed of shaved ice.

The stout fish lie next to a more flexible species that are nestled into each other, which — in turn — are next to eels that are tangled in each other.

A cat alternately stalks and sprints, testing the air with an upturned nose and the safety of approach with timid feet.

Eyes up, the cat considers a plot to leap-snatch a tiger prawn.

When, like manna from heaven, a small fish — so fresh that it’s capable of “plotting” its escape in muscle spasms more than with its ill-oxygenated fish brain — flips itself off the shallow tin tray onto the ground.

The cat, an instinct-guided missile, snatches the fish in its jaws and runs through a narrow gap in the wall to a favorable dining haunt.

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