Cassandra Myers

from the Poem of the Year’s 2022 Shortlist: “BRAIN SPIKE FOR THE SECOND MOUTH”

Cassandra Myers in a pink shirt and bra with a large patterned brown/gold scarf and snake earrings


Most fish are killed the same way. Latticed from the water. Ice-bedded and left to open their gills to an empty so final it crushes the wedding arch within them. The hook hasn’t discovered yet if and how fish feel pain, but it’s confirmed, with a mouthful of lox, that fish do feel stress. Five minutes to a few hours of wind-gasping for a fish to submit to the whites of its eyes. When a fish is wrestling in death’s tulle skirt, it’s exercising.

                        Ex·er·cise /ˈeksərˌsīz/ noun 1.       activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain           or improve health and fitness. 2.      regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ

Sex is a form of exercising. A two person jog. Repeated use of everything that flutters and flatlines within us. To the reel, we wriggle all the same. Is a fish really exercising if air-breathing is an irregular use of the lung? Is a body really having sex if it's holding its breath? I used to run. For exercise and for release I can only get in orgasm post-cane. After sweating, vaginal odour is often described as “fishy”. Before my legs abandoned me, I thought I had chronic yeast infections from the trout in my purse.

While trying to escape, fish’s internal bloodstreams waterboard with rot chemicals. Thrusting through the cellular walls with a toothpick, skewering flesh. A night market right there in the vein. A taste that pinches your nose.

After sexual violence comes vaginitis—a smelty fermentation in grief’s vinegar. Hook, line, and sink her. Gardnerella vaginalis. Garden, a secret between legs or in the blood if filleted correctly. I Google, vaginal flora imbalance, wishing for tips on sunflower aquaponics, orchid resurrection.

Ikejime, translated to, “brain spike” is a traditional Japanese method for killing a fish. Death by relaxation, a four step process:

1)         Insert a spike into the brain, killing fear at its slippery root. 2)         Exsanguinate all the red swarming the exit sign at the tip of a blade. 3)         Involuntary muscle spasms occur as the body remembers itself in past-tense. 4)         Send a metal piff through the spinal cord of the fish, a still life of a slow death.

Pelvic physio therapist tells me to relax. To squeeze a blueberry with skirtfingers. To think about sex before this wince era. The throat and the vaginal canal are structurally similar— a moan burrow. Of pain or pleasure I can’t be sure. I slack my jaw, to swallow a thick hook with my second mouth. Tensing is involuntary to the frigid gel, doc’s blue latex finger, coaxing me to be the leech I shy from. My thighs swell and collapse like they’ve got their own set of lungs.

When the last piff-kiss made a coat hanger of me, I stuck a rod of Canesten up my twitching channels, begging to smother the quills bracing for a sprint. For months it burned so thoughtlessly my milky creeks turned to gasoline-rainbows in the harbour.   Mention insertion and I become snag, tear, yank.

Supermarket suffocated fish rot faster, on purpose, to spite you, for all those laps it took—and for what? to be dashing towards a dead end. When bitten into, the fillet spits in your mouth. Its saliva-blood, a soured death. Improper burial, maiming of a corpse, revenge of a bubble-starved tongue. Impossible to scale Ikejime on commercial fishing boats, we stay sour. Impossible to wring all the stress from flight clotted corridors, we stay itchy. Refuse not to feel what we succumbed to the ice bath.

Margo LaPierre on “BRAIN SPIKE FOR THE SECOND MOUTH” by Cassandra Myers

“BRAIN SPIKE FOR THE SECOND MOUTH” is a poem of twisting, muscular language-play and surprising juxtapositions. Myers’ aquatic exploration into gendered violence feels both familiar and perplex. The poem itself is a kind of ice bath—while reading this poem you may find it stuns you awake from the first stanza.


Cassandra Myers in a brown dress and smiling widely, surrounded by greenery and holding a branch with leaves near their face

(provided for the poem “BRAIN SPIKE FOR THE SECOND MOUTH”) Cassandra Myers (they/she) is a queer, non-binary, crip, mad, South Asian-Italian poet, survivor, performer, educator, and care worker from Tkoronto, Ontario. They are a Canadian Nationals Poetry Slam winner and are transitioning into publishing and illustrations. Cassandra’s debut book of poems Smash the Headlights is anticipated with Write Bloody North Publishing.

Skip to content