A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

Back to Issue Nine


"Di Vilde Chaya" by Aliyah Blattner

Di Vilde Chaya

Remember to tell the fishmonger that you want the bones. Throw in tails, heads too. When that pink fan unfurls as he slits their bellies open, you better lick the blade clean. He wraps flesh in brown paper. Cherish the sting of wet skin, brine. Don’t hold your breath. Lock your elbows, carry the parcel far from your body. Cross the street with your eyes closed.


In a large saucepan, arrange the heads, face up, open mouthed, salt your water. Skim off the foam with a slotted spoon. And pray. Then, slice up onions, carrots, and parsnips. Grind fish flesh to paste by hand. One by one, crack eggs into a small bowl. Check for blood.


When you turn your back to wash the cutting board, the pot will tremble, water sloshing over the sides. Steam will curl into the head of a seraph. She’ll flex her tail, gnash teeth. Smoke will flare from her nostrils in the shape of letters.


Turn off the tap and dry your hands. Mold lumps of fish into ovals. Carrot peels will slither from the compost to snake around your forearms, your scales shimmering as ribbons of flame loop over blue veins, a fiery veil. Retrieve them from the pot, scoop out their eyes. They’ll blink up at you from your palm, glassy, round, before rolling away.


Don’t panic when gills split the skin of your neck and you fall to the floor, spitting fire. Wings will tear through your back, a tail falling heavy between your legs. Hum, hiss, shriek, as the pot boils over. Hunch on all fours, claw at your ears, howling. Rive flesh from bone. Because you are dangerous. Rip out your hair, stomp your feet, invent a new language. Swallow the moon, shape shift, shatter.


Because one day, an older version of yourself will play mandolin on a porch swing. She plucks steel strings, a ginger cat twining between her legs, as the sun sets. She learned to pull her scales beneath her skin.


Retrieve the gefilte fish from the pot. Adorn each piece with a slice of carrot. That’s your father’s car pulling into the driveway. Hang his coat by the door.


Do you remember the flood? How we drowned, grew fins and tails? Do you remember how our bodies learned to separate oxygen from hydrogen, to breathe underwater? The ocean dried up and we wriggled on our bellies in the desert. Grains of sand weighed down our tongues.


Set the table. Say blessings over the meal. Cross your legs, lay your napkin over your lap, suppress the vilde chaya in you.


Because we weren’t always hiding. I remember. Yes. Oh yes. I remember. But memory can fail. So turn your back on language. Pick your teeth with its bones.

Aliyah Blattner

Aliyah Blattner (she/her) is a poet and artist from Beaverton, Oregon. Her creative practice primarily focuses on imagining queer Jewish feminist elsewheres. A recent graduate from Brown University, Blattner currently lives in Brooklyn where she does nonprofit work supporting survivors of gender-based violence. Her poetry and art have been published by Rattle, Yellow Arrow Journal, Dyke Diaries, Yafeh Zine, Mahberet, and others.



Aliyah Blattner