Gawin ang isdâ*
Ready your mosquito forceps, your knives and basins, your chopping board and utility trays. Bring in your milkfish, the creamy-fleshed bangús. Scale or not, as you wish, my love. Remove the nuisance bones, the anal fin. Its dorsal side will need to be split, by knife, flat, tail to head, cut along the backbone. Now a butterfly, opened out. Gut it of gills, innards skinsidedown. Backbone gone. Perhaps your tray is silver. Doesn’t matter. Make it shallow. Take forceps to the pins, the rib bones recalcitrant as ever, spines on the vertical side, filamentous bone Ys along a lateral line. Another knife to slit the dent of dorsal muscle to the end. Excess blood. Swill with chilled brine and no small ceremony. It is ready. You are so much younger now. The clay pot stove is there to be lit with your bundle of sticks, my darling, your matches and paper. The river rushes below and your hands are too small for this task, but still I love you for trying. Adore the smoke already wispy in air, though you don’t know it.
* Filipino idiom meaning ‘prepare the fish for cooking’; literally, ‘make the fish’.