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The Fisherman's Son
(1956 - / United Kingdom)

The Fisherman's Son

Perhaps it was when he first felt his shoulders
roll an oar, or when he pulled the thick boots on.
Perhaps it was when he saw the curved thin rod
of the moon angle into his father’s face and hook
his mouth into an ugly grin; or perhaps when
the sun rerouted his eyes to the necks of wading
birds along the shore as the first pink tones

of dusk uncurled along the ferns. It could have
been the way his father’s knife eased out the eyes
of so many fish like spoonfuls of compote that gave
him thoughts black as the inky emulsions of squid,
a sleep no fishing boat could ease, nor star prick
with its comforting pin. Perhaps he learned nothing
from his father’s face except how whiskey

trawled sleep from his eyes and left him pursued
by pain and thunder and a show of lightning’s
yellow flares. Perhaps when he felt the rod
pull his arms through a reel’s band of static,
when he heard his father’s voice in the headache
scudding low across his forehead, the reel
with an insect’s drum-head pitch his heart into

summer’s mounting heat; the slow drip of days
revved up by outboards then dispelled by a drill
of mosquitoes, or weather finding tenor in its squalls.
Among stars and fish, those notes from the waste
hours he gutted, from the river’s sweep of years,
who could know how many knives he heard
audition for his nerves, or what beat his heart

took, or how many rounds of an ingoing lake
before the wind rushed into the uncaulked
cracks and left him face-down, deep-drummed,
gear-slipped, deaf to his inner repertoire, blind
now to the river’s weather-beaten stare.
Perhaps from a tangle of yellow air, or when
he heard the wind bale out of a speeding sky,

or a firetail add its flute to the rankling handle
of a windlass, a lyrebird weigh its call in
with an anchor’s unrolling links, some twisting
erratic pull of tackle as the mosquitoes buzzed;
when he heard his father’s voice in each dizzy
injected dose…. All day such talk went on
as the men brought in their hauls, gutting fish

to the noise of pelicans, those bills clacking
like clapperboards, the ease of routine. Here
among the brace of tides, as wind skips along
ropes left lank and loose and dangling now
among the sloops, no one fully knowing why
a boy would desire to die….The avocets walking
the shore with their hesitant, hair-splitting steps.

User Rating: 3,3 / 5 ( 19 votes ) 7

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Comments (7)

Love the line It's the way he knows his poverty without privacy in your poem -Man Washing on a Railway Platform Outside Delhi
A marvelous story poem with superb narration style. Congrats on the modern POD and thanks for sharing.
This kind of quite a long story poem needs great skill and patience....you have marveled very well....I pity that boys' desire...Quite informative for me about your land's fishermen an their life style....thank you- 10
Nicely done.Congrats being member of the dayJudith Col Muhammad Khalid Khan
great variety of perhapses, Judith. My bet is on a combination of the above or none of them.
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