POETRY: African Gutter Fish, Chaun Ballard




African Gutter Fish

Chaun Ballard



Inside this glass bowl are five
third-generation gutter fish—

fish who have never known the gills’ gasp between breaths
or the threat of evaporating waters—

fish who have never seen clouds form off tro-tro tracks
or a fresh stream of urine

flawlessly arcing itself
from straight line.

We are third-generation fish—

fish who have never dodged
the stone’s plunge of curiosity—

have never sampled the carcass
of a mosquito stricken with malaria.

We are half-recovered-yesterday fish—

fish who have never been separated
by dark thunderless billows of drift

fish who have never made villas
out of soda can—

fish who have never formed phalanx
to fend off warring factions

or beaten our tails
against the throat of tom-toms.

We are third-generation fish—
fish inside a sterilized jar

with sterilized trees
attached to a sterilized rock

that anchors the bottom
of our world.



Chaun Ballard

Poet and photographer CHAUN BALLARD was raised in both Missouri and California. For six years now, he and his wife have been teaching in the Middle East and West Africa. He is currently a graduate student in the University of Alaska, Anchorage’s MFA Program. He’s had poems recently accepted byThe Caribbean Writer, Grist: The Journal for Writers, Sukoon, Orbis: Quarterly International Literary Journal, and other literary magazines. His photos can be seen in the latest issues of Gravel and The Silk Road Review.

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