Tao Lin




ugly fish poem, part one 


i have licked the ashen barnacles of the low ports of melbourne  

low in elevation (when viewed from the highway) 

i have swam with the handsome redfish of the small piers of melbourne 

i have been to jetty park near cape canaveral, mackeral, jewfish, 

the little mermaid, and journeyed deep into the rocks, at my own peril, 

to stare at the handsome feet of young caucasian humans 

i have felt a love of life that i believe is good  

and i have felt it alone; i have always felt alienated from my peers 

i am an alone ugly fish 

the concrete manifestation of my emotional center is a skinned red onion covered 

by local newspapers under a boardwalk at cocoa beach 

i know many terms but speak only in concrete specifics 

from afar i have appreciated the manatee for its round body 

from within i have appreciated the manatee for its veganism 

my favorite poets include mary oliver and alice notley 

i am a playful companion, a tactful friend 

and compassionate lover; a mutant sturgeon sniffs a seahorse with a nose located on its stomach 

i have lain on the ocean floor alone at night on my birthday  

and felt very aroused and ugly  

i have willfully and simultaneously subjected myself to multiple irreconcilable philosophies  

i have held my body with my little fins 

on the fourth of july  

and made excruciating screams of despair 

i have my grotesque appearance and my small mind to accomplish these many tasks 

i have made small noises of despair in the presence of those i respect most 

i have suffered unseen in the nooks of jetty park 

and i have swam unseen  

and i have swam fast; any speed that exists i have swam at that speed; i have been wild with loneliness  

and felt the generosity of loneliness 

i have seen a hammerhead shark strike a manatee then flee in confusion 

i have seen a manatee strike a baby hammerhead shark repeatedly 

until a small brown-gray paste floats away 

i have seen a blue whale scream in joy then wake from a dream 

i have seen a giant tuna swim upside-down with lust into a concrete wall 

in frustration, and i know how it feels,  

as i have felt the center for international studies of subatomic particles inside of me  

and swam with it in the foamy waters of cape canaveral 

i have tasted the still-frozen midsections of bulk shrimp and fought away other shrimp with my fins 

conversely i have tasted the artificially flavored centers of soy meats 

i am almost nine years old 

i have seen the decapitated heads of pigfish  

drop into the ocean: their faces were shiny 

thank you for reading so far 

i'll finish the rest of this poem very soon 

i hope you like me so far 


ugly fish poem, part two 

i have been hooked by middle-aged wives  

and tenderly they have held my soft body  

in the twilight, bobohomomobi air of cape canaveral; i have seen on their faces  

the advent of the nuclear age, the fall of nations, the grace of god, elderly pufferfish,

tyrannosaurus-rex, baby flounder, and the godless miracle  

of holding one's own desolate life in place, with confidence  

and within a scene, at the center of that which reflects into my wet eyes: the husbands  

approaching with humangotantinularic faces; the children perverse with mobile gyrations,  

the dark blue sky of pain and desolation; the bleached faces-of-agony of the cruise boats;  

the ground; the moths and gnats and mosquitoes around the lights: the entire thing is flipping  

and indifferent to my existence as i'm tossed underhand toward a star, and the pain 

in my mouth feels distinct and unfair as the idle containment of another world, inside my face, 

and i don't know what of this is real 

i don't have any friends  

i don't know what is reality 

i know only that i am thankful for those opportunities, when i feel sudden, acute pain while eating, 

and to tao lin, for providing me these pages in his book of poetry, 'cognitive-behavioral therapy,' 

so that i may express myself poetically, for once, 

and let it be known the intensity of my metaphysics, 

my admiration for myriad things, my love of life,   

the excruciating loneliness i felt on my birthday, 

the best loneliness of my life, a giant stegosaurus, a scary red eye, the mythical horned manatee