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Sympathy Pains

By Amber Nuyens

In harvesting her eggs, a sturgeon is sliced from jaw to tail, her pink and full organs are splayed out on the wrong side of her grey skin onto the reflective silver table; the eggs, bundled together, are scooped out of her body cavity by full arms, careful and gentle, to be processed and packaged into tiny luxury tins, just as she has been born for, prehistoric fish, spikes still running down her spine where evolution got lost, farmed for tiny black beads bathed in salt, her body— a husk— discarded, no more tangible value once her eggs have been evacuated and the whole time I can’t look them in their eyes, it hurts deep in my stomach, all the way until I’m finished scooping their insides out, maybe it’s sympathy pains, like I’m feeling for her as I gut her for one specific piece, discarding the rest, up until I carry her smell home, like the guilt follows me on purpose, but still, I can’t leave the giant fishes because if I stop slicing and gutting and scooping and processing and packaging, someone will replace me and they won’t care about her as much as I do– they’ll push her hollow cave-no-longer-body down the production line like she never mattered, they’ll wash her scent off and they’ll brag about the fish they emptied, nothing following them like she follows me– I care about you, fossil fish, so much that only I can be the one to smash the mallet down on the base of your skull and flip you over and slice you open and hollow you out and turn you into rich people finger food.

Amber Nuyens (she/her) is an MFA student living on unceded lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ territory with her elderly lizard and her work has previously appeared in Perhappened, Complete Sentence, Glitchwords, and elsewhere.

Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado living in Oregon, by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.


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