The Fish

By Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on telegram
Share on email
A.ward X Loso: It's Ok To Not Be O... x
A.ward X Loso: It's Ok To Not Be Ok (Spoken Word)

About Us

Pick Me Up Poetry seeks to be an agent of change in society by fostering cross-cultural dialogue and providing much-needed information and representation for writers and performers. We offer our followers insightful glimpses into cultures around the globe through various mediums including our online articles, poetry collections, spoken-word videos and more. 

The Poetry Network
🌍 Public group ~ 5.3K members
Open Group
The Poetry Network
🌍 Public group ~ 5.3K members
Open Group
LEVEL UP!
Drop your email and we'll send you 25 poetry editing guidelines to help transform your creative writing!
Send It!
LEVEL UP!
Drop your email and we'll send you 25 poetry editing guidelines to help transform your creative writing!
Send It!
Join Our Family & Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Privacy Policy: This information will never be shared with third parties.
Subscribe Now!
Join Our Family & Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Privacy Policy: This information will never be shared with third parties.
Subscribe Now!