Ben Black, Gillian Olivia Blythe Hamel & Matt Shears

OLD GROWTH: Terry Peterson’s kinetic sculptures on preservation and decay, masculine identity and human inheritance, informed by his hometown logging community

Excerpt from the chapbook Artifacts (June 2015)

by Ben Black

Homage

I’m looking at all these dead fish, and they’re looking back at me. That look of horror as I slice them down the middle and remove their heads—gets me every time. That’s why I do it here, in front of the window. Something else to look at, out in the yard. That’s why I listen to the police scanner while I gut—I’ve never gutted in silence so I can’t say the fish don’t say anything, don’t comment on what I’m doing. All I hear is static or human voices talking in numbers. Keeps me from hearing the fish’s side of things. What story would a fish tell anyway?

Sometimes it’s too much. When he brings home a full hanger of them I can already feel my legs ache from the time I’ll spend getting guts all over my arms pulling out bones and piling up heads. Sometimes I think I’ll keep the heads—Put ’em in jars on the windowsill, let them see what I see every day. A change of pace. Something besides the dirty river water and the silty river bottom and the ass of the fish in front of them all day long.

And being in the jars will keep them quiet. If they can speak. Maybe I’ll hear a soft mumble, but it won’t bother me much on most days. Today the police scanner is quieter than it’s been in a while. All I’m getting outside of the gentle flow of static is a few staccato beeps every quarter hour. That’s not enough—I could hear a fish speak easy if he chose to. Turning up the volume only sounds like turning on the tap—more static comes flowing out. I’m swimming in it, immersed in a static river piled up with fish corpses. The water barely has room to slide around us, me and the fishheads, sitting together in the middle, looking for a new view.

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