In those days, Japanese restaurants placed tanks of fake, magnetic fish
in their vestibules. We would sit at the counter saying I love so-and-so
but live with so-and-so-someone-else, and the waiter folding napkins
at the corner table would look up from his work and say: if you please,
see the fish—the way they approach one side of the tank and then the other,
turning and turning in a way that makes us feel they’re alive.
But he would say this in Japanese, which at that time we heard
as a sequence of meaningless syllables. Because it would be many years
until the distinction between all languages was erased.
And for us, many bowls of clouded broth.
Jacob Eigen is a poet and fiction writer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salmagundi, The Iowa Review, and The New Republic.
Image: Henri Verstijnen, Chaetodon Fish, ca. 1892–1931. From the Rijksmuseum.