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Liza Wolff-Francis

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.

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