After my mother leaves, my father
teaches me how to fish and gut and fillet,
to shuck oyster shells into the ocean
past the boatyards of Biloxi.
I never find a pearl, but sea salt
coats the sand and dirt and grit
sticking to my skin, the soles of my feet
dappled bright like black drum.
Some nights my father smokes mackerel
and ground mullet, the husks of old boat motors
strewn at our feet, while I watch the flounder fight
against the freshwater of the Singing River.
My mother once told me that man was not
meant to tame the sea, but my underbelly
is encrusted with red coral, and I have
circumvented shipwrecks beneath the bayou.
I haven’t been to church in seven years,
but with my fingers hooked in the gills
of a thrashing white trout,
I know that we unmake the fish
the same way God made him.
Shastra Deo was born in Fiji, raised in Melbourne, and lives in Brisbane, Australia. She graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts and recently completed her honors year at The University of Queensland. Her poems have appeared in Uneven Floor and The New Guard.