Leslie Cairnes

Leslie Cairns holds an MA degree in English Rhetoric. She lives in Denver, Colorado. She has upcoming poetry/flash fiction/short stories in various magazines, including Coffeezinemag, Pink Plastic House, Diphthong Literary, Broken Poetry, Cerasus Magazine, Millennial Pulp, Wishbone Words, and others.

Leaving the Fish Behind

She picked up the porcelain ladle, thinking of docile, loud, swans’ necks. Better left alone,
beautiful yet intimidating, people say. How she had never thought about swans before, before
this. How luscious / unkempt /wise swans are, and how irritably they can wound you, when
you’re least expecting it.

The first lesson her father taught her: cup a minnow in a stream with your hands, palms inward
like a prayer. Watch it breathe. The gills are steady, romantically threading with the water. And
then, you let it go back. The fish may kiss your fingertips for luck, but you are not there

To give it anything but the space
Around your fingers, if only for a moment.

Why? I’d asked, gap toothed, Oshkosh blended, and filled with the only allowed pie, which was
the innocence found in cheese pizza.
I turned my nose up at drowning the slices in flavors, in memories
of islands.
Topping them with green, or spinach leaves, or feta shaped like

My Dad shrugged. To back with the other minnows, I suppose, he’d said. It’s just the way it goes.

She handled the ladle, full-up with water in dizzying, gargling amounts. She wanted to drip her neck with dewdrops, to transform into a ballgown with the silver sparkles all cut out.

She wanted to be a minnow, going back to the others. But she was a ladle, a goldfish trapped in a
porcelain glass, waiting for someone to pour her back

Her father had left long ago, forgetting the number one lesson that he taught her. She now ate
pizza with toppings he would not like, to spite him: Hawaiian with pineapples that wept like
sweating. I suppose he wouldn’t think twice about her habits, her orderings, her wanderings.
Not Now.

Or, why she still dreams of streams; the mindset behind
going fishing. & the way the sunlight wrapped around the pine tree bark, begging for sap to ooze
out. Sometimes a bee sting to remind us where we were. Here, and here, and near the kindling,
but not quite that close-

No more fishing, no more good luck kisses.
No more standing, feet apart, waiting to help a small fish

Learn the meaning of the word / the box / the hook
Named cradle.

I wonder, now, how many fish are swimming in water, and don’t know what it’s
like to be held.