Underneath LED lights that lie
as sunshine there’s a rosy halfmoon

betta laying between the leaves
of an anubias plant behind algae-

infested glass while a hungry tiger
nerite snail’s radula scrapes along

the tank. The betta emerges, flutters
chiffon-pink fins like he is looking

for an escape, but all he finds is his
reflection where the snail has eaten

away at the algae. He thrashes,
as if the reflection were blocking

his exit before he tires and swims
to the surface to gulp air

with the aid of his labyrinth organ
like he did yesterday and will keep

doing, never knowing he is not only
searching for a way out, but for

flooded rice patty fields. Tomorrow
he starts over while you sit and peer

at him through maze-like lines
of clear glass that the snail has made

wondering how such a small creature
would even try to begin navigating

the immense labyrinth in his body,
plot a path back to his ancestors

possibly — most likely — unaware
of why he has an impulse to do so.

David Ly is the author of Mythical Man (2020) and Dream of Me as Water (2022), both published under the Anstruther Books imprint of Palimpsest Press, and short-listed for the 2021 and 2023 ReLit Poetry Awards, respectively. He is also co-editor (with Daniel Zomparelli) of Queer Little Nightmares: An Anthology of Monstrous Fiction and Poetry (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022). More: Twitter @dlylyly + Instagram