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.