At six I witnessed death for the first time and it was a duology. First came true death: my dear fish Getty afloat in the tank, and second came sepulture: the toilet bowl. Getty was a slice of orange that darted in blinks and to see her swirling smoothly in the water was more distressing than discovering her earlier stillness. Thus I refused to accept it; each time I closed my eyes her body spun hypnotically in the blotched dark like a magician’s trick. To stop the haunting I found a new fish that looked like Getty, named her Getty, fed and waved to her like I did old Getty. I don’t remember when she died. Many years later I was amused to learn about the Ship of Theseus, which seemed to me a more complicated rendition of the Getty situation. And I felt sorry for Getty, the first and the second and the third and the fourth, for the way I stripped them of their fishness.
Deaths of Getty
3 Questions for Stacey
What was your process for creating this work?
I wrote these poems with a specific image in mind: the particular shade of a particular taxi on a particular summer day, or how my cat looks crouched over her food bowl. They're not particularly striking, but they stuck with me. Writing is my way of discovering why. I wanted to broaden the scope of the images while keeping their mood specific, which gave me liberty to engage in a bit of stream of consciousness that was still grounded in the feeling of the original image.
What is the significance of the form you chose?
I wrote in free-verse, which most closely mimics the quick and loosely organized way my thoughts unravel.
What is the significance of this work to you?
Each poem is about longing. Whether that's longing for a childhood self or the immortalization of a pet is just a difference in flavor. In "Aquamarine Taxi," that memory—the weather, the meal—encompasses everything I feel about Shanghai, a city I likely will not visit again because my grandma has since passed. And with "Cat-Lover" and "Deaths of Getty": I think loving a pet can be so pathetic. And I'm drawn to pathetic things. I wanted to capture that.
Stacey Yu is a writer and reviewer living in San Francisco. She studied English Literature at Columbia University. She once memorized 400 digits of pi, for which she won an apple pi.