Ujjwala Maharjan | March 8, 2019

This winter, the aquarium almost choked.

Its filter wheezed fizz for weeks

and then stopped gurgling altogether.

Its water soon grew murky,

the glass turned green with moss,

the bulbs

burned out, one after the other.

The bottom, a decaying bed of fish poop, fish food,

and dead fish.

Not many fish survived,

and the ones that did,

they looked like they’d forgotten how to swim.

They lay still at the bottom, resting quietly on the floor,

oddly perched on their bellies,

like plastic fish.

Only when you looked really close

did you see their little mouths

open and close,

close and open.


The eldest daughter of the house,

who occasionally visits,

finally got down to cleaning the aquarium,

made it spotless, like everything else she touched.

But the aquarium still looked sick.

She predicted it would not hold out too long –

a couple of months maybe. The aquarium still holds,

but it has joined a gang of ghosts

that haunt this house.

Ghosts of people who’ve long stopped breathing,

still look on from photo frames hung against the wall,

alongside the ghost of an old family clock,

that’s stopped ticking, its pendulum slowly stiffening with rust.

And the ghosts of people gone missing,

still breathing somewhere, just not here,

their names stuck in the throats of the living

who won’t forget them or remember.


Not many people live here anymore.

And those who do, they look like,

they’ve forgotten how to laugh.

They sit oddly silent,

their minds still brooding over the past,

only when you stand really close,

do you hear their longing hearts,

beat and stop,

stop and beat.


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