In September of 1994, I was exhibiting at an art & craft festival that also included entertainment, carnival rides, and games of chance. There was one game with numerous small fishbowls, each with one occupant. One throws some purchased number of ping pong balls among them and, if a ball manages to plop in a bowl instead of bouncing out, the fish is the prize. The trauma of all the noise/vibrations and flashing colors on the poor fish is of course not a consideration, neither is its fate after being won. This poem popped into my head as I saw various people walk by with plastic bags full of water and the fish whose (likely grim) fate they held.


Carnival Fish

Oh, to be a goldfish
inside a plastic bag,
the water getting hotter,
a lack of air to make me gag,

On my way to a make-do fishbowl
cleaned with Windex and a rag,
eating my own feces
till my fins begin to sag.

I'll swim around in circles
with only one thing to make me stop.
A death brought on by gross neglect
will float me to the top.

Unnoticed, several days I'm sure,
I'll rigor as I float,
and the rotting in my body
will make me stink and bloat.

And when the stench can get no worse
and I've lost my golden blush,
too late I get attention
as they eulogize me with a flush.


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