Andy Breckenridge

The Intermediate Fish

We manoeuvred the tank up the stairs
to our student flat, set up the pump
added water, gravel, a light then 
the cast. Action. The Siamese fighting fish was 

a billow of blood. A slew of tetras, transparent extras 
but for the red and blue neon strips  
borrowed from the kebab shop’s ‘Open’ sign. 
A gourami, plain as a dud coin. 

We called him ‘Intermediate’ and waited 
for him to develop into something sharper, 
more colourful, but he remained full of character.
The pump whirred all night, the lit tank competed 

with videos on the screen beside it; 
Rumble Fish, Betty Blue, Taxi Driver, The Duellists. 
In time, it was emptied, used to store books 
and photographs when you moved out.

Years later, I remembered the giant circular aquarium 
in the Sea Life Centre, and a shoal 
of silver herring spooling round and round, while I followed
the direction of the arrows on the floor in IKEA. 

The Incredible Shrinking Man: A Supplication
‘The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens, the universe, worlds beyond number.’ Scott Carey, pesticide inhaling protagonist of 1957 movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man. 

Why did you inhale those toxins from the mist
that let your vertebrae settle year on year?
Admit the gravity that makes you shrink and list?

The elastic at your core slackens and untwists
the gap between the sky and your white hair 
grows, from breathing in some toxins in a mist.

Won’t you fight this fall in altitude, resist
the slump of shoulder blades towards the earth,
refuse the gravity that makes you shrink and list?

The cat is now a giant, hear him hiss
and scrabble at the doll’s house where you shelter
and rue your breathing in of time’s cold mist.

Your body’s lost its snap; please get a grip.
Can’t someone pull some strings to lift you higher                                                 
and halt the force that makes you shrink and list?

Pull your bones apart some. I insist 
and hold your head up, don’t just disappear.
Blow those toxins out, disperse this mist,
reverse it so you needn’t shrink and list.

The Rudiments Of Palmistry
a haibun

He presses his palms against the glass and sees the imprint of his heart, head and life lines mapped out in translucent smudges; she covers them over with hers to quiet applause. 

They fold, wrinkle like 
sandpaper, cup to weigh up
the colours of stones. 

Shopping bags dig deep gutters on cold, wet Saturdays. She catches him falling backwards again and he slaps his forehead for the times he let her fall. 

Their palms press on each 
others’ sacral dips, two bodies 
vacuum packed as one.

Andy Breckenridge is an English teacher living in Brighton but originally from Oban. He writes mainly about self imposed exile, place, relationships, and memory, and poems often include fish and water. His pamphlet, The Liquid Air, was published by Dreich in July 2021, and a Chris Riddel illustrated version came out in July of this year.

His work has appeared in several print and online journals, and he has been a featured writer on Flight of the Dragonfly Spoken Word. He reads regularly at the Northern Poets Society, and is also on the bill at the Summer Anywhere Festival in Leith in September 2022.

Twitter: @drbafc

Insta: breckenridgeandy

Flights, Issue Six, September 2022