As my daughter napped
I scooped her goldfish from the tank
and flushed them down the toilet,
watched as each swirled to its untimely
death. The goldfish were her father’s
idea, a present on her third birthday.
At first, she couldn’t stop watching
as they’d dart for food, their mouths
a perfect O at the water’s surface.
Once, even, before bedtime,
I love you fishies, as she wrapped
her arms around the tank and kissed
the glass. But love is imperfect.
Their small, continuous orbit around
the plastic plant began to bore her.
By autumn, hardly a glance in the tank’s
direction. Still, I fed them dutifully, changed
a third of the water monthly as recommended,
installed a new filter when the first one began
to mold. I kept alive what was alive until I
didn’t. It was a week before she noticed,
and then, curiously, where my fishies go?
The parenting books stacked clumsily
by my bed say nothing about what to say
to your child after you’ve killed her goldfish.
Swimming in the ocean with their mommy,
I tell her. I wait for more questions but there are
none. The lie, so terribly, terribly absurd,
Michelle Matz’s chapbook, Atilt, was published by Finishing Line Press. She won the Mary Merritt Henry Prize for a group of poems, was a semi-finalist in the Ledge Press Manuscript Contest, and was awarded an Individual Arts Grant through the San Francisco Arts Commission. Her poems have been published in numerous journals, including Berkeley Poetry Review, Rainbow Curve, So to Speak Journal, Cider Press Review, and most recently, at SWIMM Every Day. She lives in San Francisco.