The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

Poem: “The Fish”
Poet: Elizabeth Bishop, 1911 – 1979

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.

Why this poem (in one line): What strikes me most in this poem is that this tremendous, grotesque yet homely fish (what does that even mean in fish terms), this fish, she lets this fish go, over the rainbows (said thrice, like a spell, chant) “And I let the fish go.”

More on Elizabeth Bishop: click here
Post on this poem, an analysis: click here (From “Some Observations on Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Fish’” Arizona Quarterly 38:4 (Winter 1982))
A psychoanalytic reading of this poem: click here
I got this poem from: here

The need to memorize

I am learning some of the most profound lessons from my son (age 7).
This morning I tried on an outfit for work, I looked at our massive full length mirror,

A: What does this look like?
B: It looks like you.
A: Do you think it is too much for work.
B: Yes and it is beautiful.

Today, off I go to work wearing my office coat with pure cotton, bright, block prints pants especially brought by Visha. Visha who says, “I found myself in the gaps between the written word and the unexpressed” – I am lucky to have found her there while poking around for wood-worm.

What are you working on these days? I am trying to memorize the seven steps to nothing. I have pieces of my heart wandering around – one bit in the south-east towards the sea, the other on an island, another in the mainland, another sitting at home playing on his iPad. Some day I won’t have tides on my forehead looking for the message in the bottle, “Tell me you are safe.” Till such time it is turning out to be quite challenging to note that really there is no manual to life, and there is no one path to the right (anyway I tend to be way left) (that was my attempt to divert towards humor – that I have learnt is a mechanism) (and that I over-analyze) (but I work in research). End of post.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories … a review

Diligent Candy:

Truly fascinating and magical

Originally posted on BookMark:

This is a book of fairytales, yes, the real kind! I picked it up at the book fair this year judging by it’s beautiful hardback cover. Yes, I am guilty! Anyway, apparently the author Susanna Clarke is quite famous from having written another series of such tales, but I must confess I had never heard of her. So the book has short stories set in strange and mysterious villages, where women weave magic or are woven into it, from time to time. As another reviewer on Goodreads puts it better “She is so good at making a whole world out of hints and references. Notice that she never has to get out of character and explain anything to the reader, she is always able to make the dialogue and the situations do the work for her, letting the action of her scenes reveal everything. This not only creates a strong…

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This parenting thing

So I asked Bambi can you speak about the things you say to me, and he said:

B: “I want to play with the iPad.”
A: What about the time you said, “Your food tastes like dirty sock”
B: “Well, we are going to talk about the nice things.”
B: “I want to go to sleep higher than 7:30p.m.”
B: “Remove ALL the vegetables from my food.”
B: “Nope, strike those out because those aren’t nice things. And the top one too.”

[Aside: This was followed by some crying and grumbling because we needed to focus to have this conversation.]

A: “What’s wrong Bambi?”
B: “I like having playdates”
A: “I asked you why are you crying?”
B: “Because you said close the iPad”
B: “No, no don’t write that, strike it out NOW”

A: “I am asking what are things Bambi says?”
B: “GIMME MY ALPRO SOYA *do it in a nice way ~ don’t write it in a rude way*”
B: “Can I please play Mario Party Nine?”
A: “Do you say it that nicely?”
B: “But just write it in a nice way.”
B: *big sigh* this is hard work maybe I shouldn’t do this.

So after I read out to him what I have written:
B: funny, giggling me, now can I go back to playing with the iPad.


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