A Difficult Conversation

by Ahana Banerji

Ma says she has bigger fish to fry.
Disregarding sprats, the white fish,
she hoists up an ilish mach about the length
of her forearm. I watch her accept it
with her knife, oil puckering
in the saucepan, anticipating
skirts of damp coriander,
a fat chalk of canned coconut milk.
There is a tenderness to the beheading.
Ma cradles ilish jaw like a son-in-law,
an absence dislocating
bone and lip and eye
as I am told to leave or to learn
how to hold a heart
for the time it takes bigger fish to fry.