Techno plays from outdoor speakers
at the beach restaurant in Tel Aviv.


I scan faces, trying to place them—
Poland? Russia? Tan, lipless men
toting wives and kids, giving me
dirty looks as I suck my shisha.


The waiter brings me a whole fried fish,
halved lemons on the side, an insistent fly
buzzing around the silvery desiccated head.


An Israeli woman with big, perfectly square
gold earrings locks eyes with me. I think we’re
both confused what it’s about, holding the stare
several beats too long, like hammy actors in a play,
till a man joins her, facial hair like a Trans Am.


The scorn with which he looks at me
makes me feel like I’m Pinhead from Hellraiser,
barbed wire wrapped around my face.


Lemon juice stings my cuticles. I smile at him
as I suck my fishbone clean.


Edward Salem

Edward Salem is a 2023 Kresge Artist Fellow in Literary Arts and the recipient of the 2022 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize. He was chosen by Ottessa Moshfegh as the winner of BOMB magazine’s 2021 Fiction Contest and was selected by Louise Glück as a finalist for the 2021 Bergman Prize. His writing has been published in Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, The Columbia Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Best Debut Short Stories (Catapult), and elsewhere. He is the co-founder and co-director of City of Asylum/Detroit, a nonprofit that provides long-term sanctuary to writers and artists who have been persecuted for their work, so that they may live and create freely without censorship or threats to their lives.