Allison Xu

Lucky Fish

In the center of Chinatown nestles
a tiny pond where coral-colored
carps outgrow their regular size,
bulging bodies floating in circles
and cramping against each other.
In Chinese, carps are our lucky fish
who sport the garment of wealth and abundance.
Their eyes glow fluorescent onyx,
their scales gleam like burnished carnelian.

People feed them fried rice from leftovers,
a human diet to sate their taste buds.
A thin film of grease scatters with curling
froth and foam on the water’s surface.
The fish keep growing, a mimicry
of pockets jammed with gold.

Mother tosses a quarter into the pond,
without making a wish.
Any kind of luck, she says.
I watch the coin dip into a ripple and
slip onto the pillow of others, a backdrop
for the motif of coiling overweight fish.

At night, I dream that a carp chants like
a bright red trumpet and releases its pleasure
into my ears. I make out wishing phrases 恭喜发财
and事事如意 that float like gold confetti.
I try to bunch the fish in my fist, but it wrings
with a spasm and squirms out of my white knuckles.
It steals down into the shallow current of comfort,
where its underbelly rubs the constellation of coins.