The Crayfish Must

have spent a week unbothered
in the pool skimmer, gills
working overtime to survive
the chlorine economy.
The little runaway had discovered
asylum in a waterlogged hovel
of flowers and beetleskins.
My father intercepted it
during his weekly
clean. With two pruned fingers,
he dislodged the intruder
and presented it to me by its jackknifed
tail—the compound eyes
glinting like security cameras, mapping
the topography of our faces in real
time. How unboiled
the thing looked, its carapace
the dull red of boxed wine.
You want for your fish
tank? My father’s teeth bobbed
and bowed like his words.
They seemed almost to plead
from behind their hull
of Invisalign… In it went.
We sat together, faces bathed
in neon, eyeing the crayfish
as it sifted gravel for nutrients,
beside knucklebone catfish from
Venezuela and glass-thin guppies from
Mexico. Expat
himself, my father must
have understood something
of the arthropod’s flight from
its mother farm in Eunice,
Louisiana to the chemical bath
in our backyard. Next month,
he will have lived longer
in San Diego
than Saigon. I wonder
if he ever thinks of the boats, here,
facing the glass. In his native
tongue, which he speaks
around the house,
the words for country and
water are the same.