You’ll notice this is not about how to cook a fish,
how to eat it with lemon and salt for dinner.
This is not that. This is HOW TO GUT A FISH.
CATCHING a fish is the first step and its specifics
will be abbreviated. Who cares how you do it.
Cast a line. Use a worm or don’t. Reach your
hand into the water and grab it yourself. Do it.
KILLING the shiny beautiful puny fish is the same.
Blow to the head, spike in the brain, suffocate it
long in air, beat against dock, don’t harm its flesh.
YOU NEED ITS BODY. What makes your fish think
that it deserves to exist while you also have a body?
To gut a fish with any success you need the fish,
in its deepest pre-death brain, to know that you
can and will disassemble its parts, using your parts.
SLIT THE GUT. Right here. It’s dead, it can’t feel
it. Draw a line with a knife from mouth to tail,
open it along the bottom seam. Do not vomit.
CUT OFF THE HEAD, using two incisions beneath
your fish’s littlest fins. Hold its head with one hand
(one finger over each eye) and its tail in your other.
Pull the corpse apart like a firework on New Years.
The spine will explode across the ground at your feet
with a familiar gentle force, like the moment when
you push your body inside someone else’s body, you
goddamn barbarian. Now the dark insides of fish,
revealed. What you want, cooling at your feet.
FILET IT. Don’t debone it. Don’t scale it. Serve it
in spiny lumps. All who eat at your table eat in pain.
They will taste, then chew. Watch them try and fail
to swallow, and then laugh, it was a mistake, dear
friends, how stupidly shortsighted! Your poor throats!
Like breaking a window to watch its spiderweb shatter,
like tearing a book along its spine to feel how clean
a split can be, you killed to explore your capacity
for violence. If your friends have any sense at all
they will understand.
Lauren Clark is a failed archaeologist. Her writing has appeared in the Offing, the Journal, DIAGRAM, and Ninth Letter, among other journals. She works at Poets House in New York City.