A Fish out of Water

she watched
she waited
a school swam by
a shoal waltzed away
they didn’t invite her
she didn’t belong
she sat quiet

tugging at the membrane that covered her
her eye loomed large as the serrated teeth worked away
blowing a bubble she puffed up
the ripple in the water pushing her ever so lightly
she rolled away into the safety of the rushes

from behind the rushes she watched the world
she kept her rudder stable
and moved her fins ever so lightly
just to stay in place
behind the rushes

imminent threat appeared
her space was compromised
she shifted readily, accommodating them
they tried to take over, push her away
from the secure nest of her rushes

she grew a few spines
for protection
she hated being hurt

they tried to gnaw on her spines
she puffed up in anguish
a bubble escaped her mouth
her wail of agony
became a song of joy
on hitting the surface

a man on the boat above
had never heard anything like that
he waited
and waited
and waited some more
soon his patience was rewarded

in a sea of torment
she blew the most beautiful bubbles
reflecting the colours of the rainbow
that popped into a thousand songs
when they reached the surface

the circle of boats waited in wonder
and were treated to the most beautiful orchestra
they had ever heard

underwater, they gathered ominously
shaking their heads in disapproval
they looked at the rushes
and aghast
watched the bubbles pop

it must be the rushes they said.
‘they are special’
a foolish one was quickly silenced when she said,
‘it was… wait, and didn’t you see?’

the bubble maker withdrew deeper into the rushes
and waited for the commotion to end
could she just be allowed to continue with her bubble-making

then they called out for her
the bubble maker said nothing – could say nothing
just continued making bubbles

by accident, the rushes moved
and they glimpsed an ordinary puffer
heaving to push out a bubble…

it cannot be you
not you.
not somebody like you

the bubble maker moved away

deeper into the rushes

and stopped making bubbles
never having known company
she shied away
a wise soul saw this and said

‘don’t disturb her,
keep them bubbles coming.’

report kept busy

worked overtime
‘o wise one, the bubbles are a reflection of an inflated ego
she puffs and puffs up with pride
those eyes too huge for our kind
grow wide and monstrous with every effort
yes i agree
the effort to stay in the rushes is great,
but methinks
she thinks
she is too good for the rest of us
even better than you
o wise one- when has she ever paid heed to you?’

the wise one could not help, but agree.

‘fine, let’s get a new bubble maker.
let’s teach this one a lesson’

so a new bubble maker was brought in
given a swanky new nest of rushes
an unlimited air supply
and gallons of fresh water
and a palette full of rainbow tints

the old bubble maker’s air supply was cut off
the reeds withered and rotted away
the water was rendered stagnant

she who chose to be unseen
became invisible

immersed in clouded waters
for she had only been minding her business
doing what she had always done
only making bubbles

the rejection and the derision
made the bubbles grow rare
but like every rare work of sweat and tears
grew more beautiful

time was not on her side

after puffing up in one last effort
she froze
thinking of the vast ocean
beyond this murky little lake

if she could have got away she perhaps would not have
she loved her little space too much

one more bubble, she thought
as she looked over at the ineffectual bubbles
made by the new flavour they all flocked to see

a dark cloud of ink
ejected by a helpful little cuttlefish
ensured they didn’t have to see her

her gills stuck together
they found her
floating above the rushes
belly up

in eager haste
they cut her moorings
attached a scroll to her fins
and set her free

already rotting inside
she floated to the surface
becoming the bubble
she had spent all her life perfecting

the world up there knew her
they had been waiting for her
rejected underwater
she did not understand the care they showed
while taking her in their hands and placing her gently
on a bolt of silk.

‘if only we had found her alive,’ they said
‘of course, even while dead she is beautiful
have you seen spines such as these? ‘
they wondered
‘wish we could take her home’


the scroll attempted to tell them another story

filled with arrogance
she grew these poisonous spikes
inimical to existence
against the common good
swollen with pride
she succumbed
thought she made bubbles
nobody ever saw them
this end is a befitting one
this is what happens to those
who do not conform

it was written in scrollic,
the ancient language of the sea
nobody understood
but thought the script looked beautiful

so they mounted her in a tank
in the museum
where she fixed her big, beautiful eyes
gazing in wonder, at the world
in her secure tank she is admired
for being herself
spines and all

becoming a huge bubble
with all the concentrated effort
of holding it all in

she sometimes dreams of the ocean
the ocean she has never seen
longs to swim away into the vast expanse
a tiny speck in the mighty order of things

the scroll inscribed in scrollic
is placed by her side
a reminder

a reminder that nobody understood
everybody wondered
how so much beauty
was possible in the world




9 thoughts on “A Fish out of Water

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