a fish

by Helina Li
Art by Sharlene Chen
Piece: Solivagant (Winter 2018)


Powerful currents
snakes through
the narrow hallway,
waters rich in sediment,
pulling each other along,
foaming as they collide,
singing as they split up.

The girl drifts
among them,
letting them take her
where they go,
caught in the midst
of those currents.
Raw power tears at her—
brushing by her arms,
crashing into her shoulders—
pressing in from all sides,
creeping up her arms,
stinging her open eyes,
closing over her head—

the sky now lost
in watery lenses.

she doesn’t mind.

She feels alive here—
alive with these streams
and the chill of water

alive in this blue world
of resounding silence

alive with nothing
but her heartbeats
thumping dully
in unfeeling ears

then she realizes the currents
had taken her somewhere
she doesn’t recognize—
and that she doesn’t know
the way back.

a familiar terror
worms into her heart.

so she looks up, searching
for a landmark, for help—
searching, searching—

she finds the mountain.
finds the water spilling from its peak
and the dragons that reside there.

and she can’t look away.
can’t look away
from their gleaming scales
and their protruding teeth.
can’t look away
from their unparalleled strength
and fearsome power.


and for a moment,
a thought entrances her.

they were all fish
so if they
then so
can she.

make it
and become
a dragon.

she can do it,

but the moment
grazes by
and she reminds herself
of the cruel weather,
of the reluctant currents—

of the lack of water
on that peak.

and she reminds herself that
a fish is still a fish
and a fish needs water,
even though it looks
like a dragon.

she reminds herself
that she could never
become a real dragon—

that there is no point
in dreaming.

so the girl quickly drops her gaze
and hurries off with a familiar current,
orange and white scales flashing in
diluted yellow as she swims away,
leaving the image behind.

she is a fish that hates water,
a fish that yearns to climb
and leave the streams behind—

but it might never happen.

A girl with the body of a fish and a dragon swirl down into a whirlpool.