Cargo

Deep in the freezer, a ziplock bag:
thin petals of dried fish overlap;
sun-gold sheen dulled, crimped slightly
at the edges. We bought them in the market
in Cebu, choosing from a stall: piled high
on baskets, threaded on strings; skeleton-
brittle, nearly. When I get a craving
I float them in hot oil, in a small pan
with a lid. I keep the lid on, open it
only when I’ve taken it outside on the deck,
where the steeped salt smells can exhale
in the cold air and not cling to the drapes,
upholstery, sheets in every room. Passing
through customs the last time we traveled,
next to jam jars and bags of coffee,
they lay quiet in their wrappers— Not
anymore fish but the essence of fish,
little pharaohs unearthed from their paper
boats. Looking the officer in the eye:
I have nothing of value to declare.

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