A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, May 31, 2010

Catch of the Day

The Fish 

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 oflime, 
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 feathrs, 
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, we, 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.