Filleting a Small Fish

—for M.

Knife like this, my grandmother says.
We are standing over the body
of a slick-finned red drum whose insides
she is teaching me to navigate but I am far
away from here, aboard that vessel
on the creased map in your study, inked
like fish ribs against the dark
vein of the Strait of Gibaltar.
I am thinking of all the skeletons
that have pressed themselves
between the layers of this earth.
What I would do to the fossil record
if I could.

Pay attention to the angle of your blade -

There are things I said
I'd never do. Leave you
at port. Return to this place -
wear gumboots, sleep late, lie
in wait of what's catching up
to me. I am always running
my hands over the bones
of these metaphors in the absence
of skin, imagining scales,
what it might feel like to hook
my thumb under a spine and lift it
cleanly from flesh the way
my grandmother can.

Like this, she says, just
like this
, and with her finger
to its belly the fish spreads
into filets. My eyes silver
over from its thick smell.
I cannot contain

myself - this body. Yours.

Cody Klippenstein currently lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest and will be an MFA candidate in fiction at Cornell University this coming fall. Her work has previously appeared in The Malahat Review, Zoetrope: All-Story, Joyland and The Fiddlehead, among others.