Bombay Fish Market
by Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca

Here the entire sea
Comes in with the fish
Wet, Wet, Wet,
Everything is wet
The stench, indescribable!
Bell-bottoms and flip-flops
Not appropriate apparel
In a Bombay fish market.
Mother scolds me for making
Poor dress choices.

The fisherwomen loaded with gold ornaments
Jasmine flowers in their hair
Call out in raucous voices,
The fish wear sad expressions
Lying on stone slabs
In salt sea-water.

Mother bargains with her usual style
The fisherwoman says
“I’ll sell you the fish cheap
if you give your daughter’s hand in marriage to my son.’’
That was the last time
I went to the fish market with mother.
Fish curry at home erases
The fish market experience.
Still the enjoyment of the curry
Comes tinged with a bit of guilt
Sadness for the fish
On the stone slabs, their eyes follow me.

Father takes me to the Aquarium
A once-in-a-while treat.
A better place to admire fish.

Still my preference is to go down to the sea with him
Where I dream of writing a poem
like John Masefield’s Sea Fever.

The fish are at home in the ocean
That travels the shores of my city.
I wish for everything Masefield desires
Unlike him, I am afraid of the sea.

First published in Verse-Virtual, August 2021.

IMAGE: Fish fairytale by CDD20.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is based on my memory of going to a fish market in Bombay with my mother, as a young girl. It was interesting and unnerving experience at the same time, especially in the company of my mother. The poem also refers to the memorable experience of going to the Bombay Aquarium with my poet father, and for walks to the seashore with him, both of which were always fun and enjoyable. John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever,” has remained one of my favorite poems to this day.

Kavita reading poetry copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca has been a teacher of English, French, and Spanish for over four decades in colleges in India and private schools overseas. She is a widely published poet, with poems featured in various journals and anthologies, including the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English, the Journal of Indian Poetry in English by Sahitya Akademi, SETU magazine, Harbinger Asylum, and Verse-Virtual. Her debut collection Family Sunday and other Poems was published in 1989. Her chapbook Light of the Sabbath was published in September 2021. Kavita is the daughter of the late poet Nissim Ezekiel. Visit her on her author site and on Facebook.