the mother stands at the kitchen sink.

knife in gloved hand,
she removes the fish scales with the discipline
of her calendar, with the swiftness
of her cursive.

her gloves are yellow rubber, the left hand
rediscovered in the far end of the junk drawer.

the fish sheds silver, which glints
in the light pouring through the kitchen window.
pouring, though it is late
december. she has gotten up early. even earlier

than god, who delegates sunrise
to some other celestial being,
a worker, like her.

she can’t remember the chinese name
for this fish, & the english always seemed
unsuitable. unbeautiful.

still, in english & on her calendar
for this morning—make fish.
then in chinese, the name of the son whose flight
has just landed. the other two are back already,
asleep still, like their father. meanwhile, the fish

scales. they seem to leap from fish
to sink—to shed
themselves, though it is the mother
who has written their fate. they clatter

into her kitchen sink. little sliding gleams.
small chattery ghosts
or gods. she whispers, goodbye.
she is not afraid to say it
because it means another good meal,
chance to gather. today,

goodbye means more to hold
on the tongue, to taste.