When his two-inch-long body
began to lose its color, turning
from burgundy to ashen-rose,
it began to float upwards toward
the top of the small aquarium ocean
he had lived in for two years.
The ascent wasn’t quick and he clung
for long moments to the space between
the gravel floor and the lifting, trying
to right himself, he kept tipping onto
his side and my child, who had sworn off
seafood and named this Betta, sang him
a pre-funeral song. The three rainbow fish,
each one a third the size of Barnalby,
passed by, inched closer, swam away from him
more slowly than before, as if watching him
like we did as we spoke to him through
the plastic walls and water. When
he finally died, we placed him on top
of a square piece of cotton inside
of a gold cardboard gift box and took him
out to the front yard where the dog wouldn’t
dig him up and we dug a hole by the bushes.
We said how grateful we were that he had been
in our family, for the joy he brought us.
I had tears in my eyes, my throat caught
mid-swallow seeing my child.
We went to put the box into the hole
and my son asked to see him. When we lifted
the top and he saw his small dead body,
it was like the wind reached inside his mouth,
our mouths, to grab the lingering cries
and it was like a tearing inside to watch
my child grieve and also, the most
wonderful thing to witness such large love
expressed for such a small creature.
Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Beginning in January 2023, she will be Poet Laureate in Carrboro, North Carolina. She has an ekphrastic poem published in Austin’s Blanton Art Museum. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Silver Birch Press, SLAB, and eMerge. She has written poetry book reviews published at Adroit, Compulsive Reader, and LitPub. Her chapbook is Language of Crossing.