I’m putting this up because I’ve been struggling with the writing of it for at least three months. Poetry and I have had a falling out. I’ve been unable to write anything worthwhile since the early summer – and what I have managed to produce has all the meaning and perception of babydrool.
I had this memory – it goes back ten, maybe fifteen years – when I was living on the Isle of Man. I started fishing because that’s what you do when you live on an island with rivers. Sometimes, in the summer, I’d go down to the harbour for mackerel- they used to come in shoals, right up to the harbour wall. All you had to do was put a bit of silver foil on the end of your hook and they would throw themselves on it. And mackerel brought straight from the sea tastes like nothing you can ever imagine.
Then I found a little river which led down through some woods and into the top end of the harbour. There were pools there, and trout would wait in the shadows to take damsel flies, water bugs- anything with lots of legs and not much sense.
One summer afternoon I was fishing a shady pool under a weir. I was using breadpaste and sugar…..and they were interested. There were four brown trout, head on to the stream, waiting for a toothsome morsel to float past, and I caught all of them. They weren’t stupid – it took me the whole afternoon. Thinking back to it, I must have been fishing for about six hours. Totally involved. In the zone. I’ve never forgotten that.
The poem came about because it struck me that writing poetry and trout fishing are comparable. You’re trying to catch something which is cautious, fleeting. You have to be immersed in what you’re doing. Does that make any kind of sense ? I hope so.
So- after all that preamble. Here’s the poem:
I used to fish that beck for trout
where it flowed thinly down a weir
to a dark pool beneath.
Below the fizzing damsel flies,
the shards of splintered sunlight
lay gravel beds and pebbles
casting amber shadows.
Trout lurked there, hovering,
winnowing the flow
for nymphs and water bugs.
One afternoon I took a round half dozn,
the line twitching between my fingers,
rod tip dipping to the water.
On this grey morning, frost
sheathes every blade of grass,
the brook runs sullen
under dirty ice.
All things are withered
under a crust of cold.