Diane Payne

Diane Payne

diane-payneFlight of Desire

Published: Feb. 2017

Within: Delphi Series Vol. 5

alicia-armstrong-words-never-listen Cover Art by Alicia Armstrong

ISBN-13: 1541340398 (Blue Lyra Press)

ISBN-10:  1541340396


Payne‘s prose is an all-access trip through the most-coveted gutters of the mind: come, stub a toe on her diamond-edged insight, arches shredded by the razor-wire wit she’s strung along the curb.  Flight of Desire is the girl-next-door shrouded in a voodoo your high school fantasies could never conjure…the rare chapbook that leaves you peeking ahead, rifling back, and constantly begging for more.” —Jake D. Sauls

Diane Payne’s most recent publications include: Map Literary Review, Watershed Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Kudzu House Quarterly, Superstition Review, Burrow Press, Dime Show Review, Lime Hawk, and Cheat River Review. She has work forthcoming in The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Souvenir Literary Journal, Outpost 19. Payne is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press) and is the MFA Director at University of Arkansas at Monticello.


The Fish

A school of fish is known as a “troubling.”


After every school carnival, my brother, sister, and I walk home with plastic bags filled with water and a goldfish. “Of course they don’t send you home with a fishbowl,” my mother grumbles when we enter the kitchen showing off our prize goldfish. “No fish food.  No bowl. Why didn’t you trade these fish for apples? Something useful. These are so small, we can’t even eat them.”


In the 18th century, members of the European aristocracy would remove goldfish from their ponds and place them into decorative bowls for special occasions.


Before our mother gets any ideas of having us eat our new fish as a snack, we remove the fish from the plastic bags and pour each one into a cereal bowl. We break up a piece of bread and place the crumbs in each bowl. “They’ll jump out of those bowls trying to grab that bread. I hope you saved us enough slices of bread for your lunches tomorrow.” She sighs heavily, then stands on a chair and starts scrounging around in the cupboards. “Here, take this old pickle jar. We need those bowls for breakfast. What kind of people think giving kids a fish is a prize? Ain’t no prize for me.”


Goldfish do not blink because they have no eyelids. They sleep with their eyes open.


The next day, all three of us chip in to buy fish food. We name our fish Curly, Moe, and Larry, and claim to be able to tell them apart. They are a hoot. Real lively bunch of fish swimming in that large pickle jar. I wonder what their lives were like before they became our prizes. Did they swim in a pond like the fish at the park? Did they have other homes before coming to our house? The fish are always watching us.  Not once do they close their eyes. They don’t trust us for one minute.


Your goldfish can actually remember things for at least five months.


“I bought you a fishbowl and that ain’t cheap. Look at that filthy bowl. You ain’t cleaned that bowl in weeks. You even feeding your fish? I knew you’d grow tired of these fish. Some prize. Your fish are watching you. They know you’re ignoring them. I don’t care which one of you does it, but one of you better scoop those fish out of that filthy bowl and clean it now. I paid good money for that bowl.”


Goldfish can live up to 30 years.


Ma!  What are you doing?” Our mother is standing above the toilet, fishbowl in hand.

“They’ve been floating upside down for days. They’re dead!” She dumps the fish into the toilet and they immediately start swimming. “Damn fish. They’ll never die!”  She walks away and I fill the sink with water, scoop the fish out of the toilet, let them swim in the sink while I wash their bowl in the kitchen. I hear her mumbling in the kitchen. “You’ll get married and leave me with the damn fish!”


-from The Burrow Press