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‘Pretty Fish’

The bad sister is lured by gelatinous scales –

she slops the good sister’s carp into a pail,

but the August sun warms the water, turns it stale.


The bad sister gathers the withered bits: a pelvic fin,

a vertebral segment, the delicate inner skin,

displays them on her vanity: their bones gleam like hatpins.


The bad sister arranges the scales in three rows,

inhales each glittery flake up her nose,

dabs her nostrils with an Elizabeth Harkness rose.


The good sister goes to the aquarist for more fish –

first he tells her to take him in her mouth, then laughs at her swish

his own briny creatures into a silver caviar dish.

Elisabeth Sennitt Clough holds a PhD from the Open University and completed her MFA at ManMet, winning the Michael Schmidt Award for Best Portfolio.

‘This was written on ‘Keeping Our Wits’ with Will Harris. The brief was to write an assignment in triplets using a full rhyme scheme: aaa, bbb, ccc etc. Will described it as ‘a horrendously fendish assignment’ – perhaps I took his words too literally and located my poem in rather dark territory!’

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