‘there is no separate survival’ by Shabnam Piryaei​

— Nix Thérèse

There’s such a cinematic quality to ‘there is no separate survival,’ one that leaves you breathless after each turn more than anything. The speaker at twelve carries goldfish that “burst like capillaries” inside the small amount of water a plastic bag manages. Their constant motion within this confined space already makes me antsy: how will they fare inside of a bigger body of water if it’s just a more expansive cage? Will more air and less pressure be enough to calm them? When we pan out to the soldier dropping mints in the speaker’s bucket, one who’s “compromised / by the anchor of [their] linger,” I’m already comparing this preteen to the goldfish’s push toward outer edge. Ownership & occupation always come with the risks of puncture. This replication of violence on small & large scales creates a new intersection for the speaker: they both grow into both controller due to their lack of concern over these creatures’ panic and controlled as the army increasingly inches more into territory. Connection and symbiosis abound in this landscape, as the title implies.

When the speaker is hunted “from [their] bed into the water” with “eels careening”, it seems a ghastly fate for a child to know the horrors of drowning that intimately. Flipping to a new space and encountering a bloom is devastating in surprise: “you had been waiting / for the first slow fruit / of a slender apricot tree.” Well-ripened fruit often feels like an indulgence, and the sheer time the tree takes to drop the apricots is saliva-inducing. I imagine juice readily falling down the chin as the soft mush passed through the mouth would feel like a reward, especially when juxtaposed against the hard mints that you must whittle down to nothing. Their mouth chronicles experiences: the waves spill in and the mints clack against teeth before any fruit-bite can become real. The consistent you throughout makes the gap between speaker and reader much smaller, so I found my tongue thrashing more than usual in the discomfort that’s built from the outset. Even if they survive, there are certain tastes that won’t wash out, no matter your appetite.


Apogee Journal