In his seaside realm, King Tilapia wanted one thing above all: to have the tallest tower. At the beginning of his rule, he had decreed that all his subjects must bring their catch to the palace and turn it over to the guards. They then threw it on a pile of fish that grew taller and smellier every year. King Tilapia did not mind the smell, for he was born without a nose. In fact he often had himself photographed in front of the fish pile, standing by Queen Tilapia and ordering her to smile. Queen Tilapia wore enormous sunglasses and discreet nose clips.No subject was allowed to keep a fish that he caught, under pain of death. Nor was he allowed to stop fishing: same penalty. Guards circled the fish pile at all times, shooting fish bones into looters. If the subjects protested, they were sprayed with fish gas, which smelled like the rotting pile of fish, only worse. To make their work bearable, all the guards had undergone rhinectomies.It was a capital offense to refer to the tower as a “pile of dead fish,” or to mention its odor. Those who did – journalists, bloggers or just ordinary people in conversation – were executed as traitors. It was whispered that their bodies were added to the pile to make it even taller, but never in public, and never out loud.
Cheryl Caesar lived in Paris for 25 years. She now teaches writing at Michigan State University. Last year she published over a hundred poems in the U.S., Germany, India, Bangladesh, Yemen and Zimbabwe. Her book Flatman: Poems of Protest in the Trump Era, is available from Goodreads and Amazon. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @CherylCaesar.