THE FISH

As a boy I learned to accept the fishes’ death.
On fishing trips with my grandfather I silently hoped the fish
Would live.  After a long drive from the lake,

When the trunk was opened,
The pickerels would still be breathing,
Their gills quivering in the murderous air.
I sensed my grandfather’s indifference;
My sorrow brooded without sound on my lips.

The pity I felt
for the fish who solemnly lazed in streams,
Inscrutable monsters who lived in the flood!
My pity moved against me like a flood,
Weakening everything but memory,
Death disguised in dreams,
Dreams of dream lakes, peering within.

Fishing in dreams, fish
Of strange dimensions, the writhing
Of colors hidden partially by the dark.

Before I learned to fish, when sex
Was only something disguised in dreams,
I dreamed of two creatures,
One fat, one long, fighting to the death
In a wooden container of water, barely large enough to hold them.

I founded my religion in a pond.
You could see a boy hunched over on summer days
Salamanders hiding in the slime.

I feared for the safety of worms
We used for bait.  Fish devoured worms, and so I felt
Less pity for fish, and then less pity for all.

I stood frozen once, when I saw a minnow
In the mouth of a snake.

Does anyone know what anything is just before it happens?
I remember feeling sex for the first time.
Poetry hinted at sex; sounds of words
Saying what was underlying, as when serpents
Sense what the child knows, or when the child knows
The unkind are near by.

Here’s the brook, the forest, the hungry trout,
The dream of sex which is not sex,
The hungry sweetness of desire,
The sunlight, the mist, the mad-life child.

You returned from the woods with your books,
You brought your books back; poetry failed you;
Poetry in books was too full of silences;
The blades of grass were louder.

Sex, the adolescent feeling sex,
Suddenly coming for the first time
While just lying on the bedroom floor, alone;
You live with it, marry it,
It keeps you company,
And poetry, lying before you in piled books,
Becomes your companion too.

If we could get back
To the dream of sex which is not sex,
The meadow, the arms, the face,
The whispers, the explanations, mother, father,
Brother, sister, the conquering, the sand,
The water, the coughing, the poetry;
The light just above you as you look up;
You’re a fish, swimming towards him,
The boy in the boat with his grandfather;
He is listening to his grandfather tell a joke;

You will interrupt, you will startle the line;
You will be pulled up on the boat;
You will die; you will die, slowly,
And the boy will no longer know what to think.
But the idea was to die for him.
The idea was to save his life.

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1 Comment

  1. Tattooch said,

    August 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

    What Keith the Rancher Said About Castrating the Bulls

    Rosemary Daniell

    “We are all H.I.V. Positive”
    — tattoo on the left hand of performance artist Dimanda Galas

    “We wear a rubber glove, up over the elbow—
    the calves, they’re held up there with ’em hangin’ down
    we pull ’em out till the blood vessels break: that way
    they heal up quick, don’t bleed so much. We just cut ’em off
    toss ’em into a bucket. They’re good sliced up, fried
    with a little batter on ’em. Once I kept throwing ’em into
    one a those rubber gloves, then threw it into the freezer—
    some woman saw it ‘n started screamin’, thinkin’
    it was somebody’s amputated arm in there….
    Does it hurt the bulls like it would a man? You bet!
    They’ve got the same nerve endin’s. But there’s a difference:
    for them, it’s just that one second: they don’t think
    about it ‘fore hand, they don’t think about it afterwards….”

    And yes, as children, didn’t we each dream it would be
    different for us? That we would somehow escape
    unscathed? I read somewhere that suffering is not
    the pain itself, but staying in the pain. And
    that’s what we humans are good at. Memory
    that blessing & curse, makes it easy to grieve
    for a lifetime, to think of what was & what might
    have been. While the cattle stand knee-deep in snow
    or lie among the rocks, rough brush, dreamless
    we toss in warm beds, knowing too well what the next
    phone call, the next day, might bring: that each moment
    of peace holds within it a hidden twin: the teratoma
    of our missing parts: the seeds of our loss, or of someone’s.


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