Rotating around the plant I am learning new ways to torture, I mean process fish. Fish move around the large warehouse on two to three different conveyor belts, stopping only to have another part of their body removed. Every part of the fish is used, much to the disappointment of seagulls hovering nearby. Twice, a seagull has just walked into the warehouse looking for scraps. Bold bird.
|Marie Antoinette’s Last Day
October 16, 1793
Restaurants and food banks request a whole fish, beheaded and gutted. I stand at the washing area, gloved up, the holes in my full length rubber apron sealed by duct tape, waiting, breath holding. Plop, plop, plop. Each fish falls off a belt 4 inches into the washing station for it’s final bath before placed in a large crate. After a while the slime and blood turn the water red; blood washing off blood. I scrub them quickly, opening the gut like a suitcase looking for residue of organs that, just half a day ago, beat with life. The sound of the fish guillotine caw-chunking down on necks 15 feet behind me keeps an irregular rhythm. Only the fish large enough to lose their heads do.
|Medieval Torture Rack, England
After the loads of whole fish are processed I’m sent to the racks. Fillets are stacked orderly, not touching each other or the edges, and sent to the freezer. Teams of two stack a rack.
Two to three racks are worked on at a time.
A rack sits on a pallet, is about 5 feet tall has seven compartments that stack on top each other. Workers make like a metal, plastic, fish sandwich over and over. The blue plastic is spread onto the wet, white plastic board, much like a fitted and top sheet for a bed, with the fish snuggled up between. Little “babies” deserving of a lullaby. (Now I know I’ve lost my mind.)
…Rack, basket, white plastic board, blue plastic wrap, fish, blue wrap, basket, white board, blue plastic, fish, blue plastic, new rack…
The rack plays out on everyone’s back. You start work at 6 inches off the pallet, squatting over it to arrange the fish onto the sheet, then slowly bend your way up, ‘till the pallet is just under the arm pits. I do this over and over for ten hours. With a 15 minute break every two hours, and a half hour lunch, three days in a row.
|Two Coho Fillets Ready for the BBQ
My mind starts to get wiggy. I look down at the fillets, all hint of fish removed, now just a hump of slimy flesh and start to wonder what else they could be. Cold large pieces of raw bacon. Large slug penises. Pink tape worms. Then it hits me— tongues.
Dead Tongues Tell No Tales
Cut out laid out
on a sheet, in a row
Pierced and strung
hung ’round the neck
The cutter, the puller
yanks out grabs full
Eyes of the carver
cold as a tomb
Red drops run
down, never away
tell no tales