elegy for betta fish (Noreen Ocampo)

I gave you Corinthian columns

& a quilt of stars, fresh water & a room

with a view, freeze-dried bloodworms 

& a miniature banana leaf

above a bed of rocks from Jupiter’s 

most volcanic moon, 

yet you laid on that leaf, aching

for a plastic cup with a punctured lid, 

refusing to puff your chest at 

your reflection. You were heartbroken

for a home that would not love you back, 

though I gave you enough 

room to dance like a fan

in a beautiful woman’s hand. You told me

that I, of all people, should know 

that money cannot buy reasons 

to live & let the bloodworms seep 

into Io’s rocks. By morning, 

you were an empty ribbon

suspended mid-water, as if in the night 

you had forgotten how to swim. 


Noreen Ocampo (she/her) is a Filipina writer and poet based in Atlanta. Her work appears in {m}aganda magazineTaco Bell Quarterly, and Hobart, among others, and she studies at Emory University. Say hello on Twitter @maybenoreen!

image: MM Kaufman