Original photo by Henry Perks on Unsplash

Fish Eyes

The process of aging is frequently coupled with fear — the changing landscape of our bodies, the deterioration of mind, and the unknowability of death can lead to states of acceptance, terror, or rage, depending on the individual. How do our relationships with our family members change as we watch them age in front of our eyes?

She hadn’t eaten in an expensive restaurant
for so long – if ever.
But she’d never been seventy before
and her daughter was paying.
The tablecloth was white linen.
She looked for stains but found none.
Silverware sparkled.
She checked her reflection in the knife blade,
saw too many wrinkles,
hastily withdrew.

She glanced over the wine list.
It may as well have been the Apocrypha
for all the sense it made.
Her ultimate order of beer
quickly summoned her daughter’s evil eye.

She wanted steak
but the word ‘filet’ frightened her off.
Besides, her teeth, had they a voice,
would have spoken against it.
Her daughter suggested fish.
She grumbled but agreed.

Then she reached into her hand-bag
for a cigarette.
“You can’t smoke in here,” her daughter warned.
She stuffed the pack back in her bag
with a loud huff.

They sat in silence
until the meals came.
The daughter’s was an eye-drop of meat
surrounded by noodles.
Her sea bass arrived with head intact.
Not even the waiter’s
delicate placing of it before her
could alter the fact.
He stood back
like an Olympic gymnast
awaiting expected 10’s.
“It’s staring at me,” she said loud enough
so all diners could hear.
She pushed the plate away.

She was finally calmed
by another beer
and a plate of ice-cream,
a dessert forbidden by her doctor.
And a cigarette of course,
and another, and another,
on the ride home.

“You really did make a fool of yourself,”
the daughter said.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she snapped back.
Her daughter wasn’t looking at her at all.


John Grey is Australian born short storywriter, poet, playwright, musician. Has been published in numerous magazines including Weird Tales, Christian Science Monitor, Greensboro Poetry Review, Poem, Agni, Poet Lore and Journal Of The American Medical Association. His latest books are Memory Outside The Head and Leaves On Pages available through Amazon. Has had plays produced in Los Angeles and off-off Broadway in New York.  Winner of Rhysling Award for short genre poetry in 1999.

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