by RB Campbell20 Jan 2017
The fisherman stood on the wave-scrubbed sand
and cast his line in the sea,
with his upright rod,
and his pulled-down hat,
and his jolly, round belly.
And the fisherman's heart rang like a bell
as every wave struck the sand.
And he talked to himself
and, perhaps, to the fish,
and his words were soothing and bland:
That splash you just saw
was no act of war,
just a token of my esteem.
So don't be suspicious,
it's all quite delicious:
sardines with a dollop of cream.
The fish in the deep quietly turned
and sang her reply through the spray:
I may be creature
of very small brain,
but some memories don't wash away.
For piercings are hip,
I've twelve hooks through my lip,
and a scar from the gaff down my side.
So forgive my discretion,
and slow circumspection,
but you'll know that once bitten, twice shy.
Come fish, said the man,
you can't be that clever:
greed trumps good sense every time.
My patient persistence
will wear down your resistance.
Our destiny's surely entwined.
Dear friend, about times
and fate's tangled lines,
you're right in one way, not the other.
And you will find out , if ever you catch me,
that some of my hooks are of bone.
I've swum in these waters since fish first existed,
and the loose sand you stand on was stone.
I am that same fish prophet Musa forgot,
at the meeting of the two seas,
and the noble disciples were fine fishermen,
but their nets could never hold me.
I am the one who swims through your dreams,
elusive, splendid, delicious,
a monster, a miracle, seen yet unseen,
the one that got away.
The fisherman yawned and scratched his belly,
ancient water slopped over his toes.
But - wait - was that a bite? He reeled the line tight,
Like a Viking, smiting his foes!
The reel sings our suspense
The line cuts through the waves,
as we wait for the grand finale.
Gulls wail in the sky,
his blood's racing high,
as we gaze through the hunter's eyes, brave:
Here it comes now, the end of the line,
a strange bundle all draped in foam.
But as he lifts it
clear of the surf,
his face dissolves into anger:
no thrashing of silver, no bulging wet eye,
just a shapeless visceral tangle -
- clotted entrails of plastic
plastic bags, snot and slime,
disposable nappies, trash from a good time -
a stinking reminder, if you had any doubt,
of the truth of the saying:
garbage in, garbage out.
Now the carcass of rubbish sprawls on the sand,
and he slashes it open to find:
lead sinker; steel hook; a strangle of line.
At least these:
his tools, in his hand.
A fisherman's knots are ancient and true,
it's all tied up, like twice one is two.
Tying the knots puts things back in place,
and may stop us seeing what we can't face.
So it took him a while, before it sunk in
that the end of the hook was not sharp as a pin,
but, somehow, had budded a crystallized swirl:
a perfect, foam-white, impossible pearl.