Fishers of Men

By | 1 May 2020
Fishing provides that connection
with the whole living world.

—Ted Hughes

The buoys hang wet between small crosses
Of clotheslines in a stubborn lean;
The creak of wood on wood and bolts pitted with rust,
The nets slump in exhaustion
Like hammocks and drag their toes.

In bare light, I peer through bleary wooden panes
As Larry unloads his night’s toil;
Some pilchards, salmon, a few yellow-fin bream,
Boxed in by handfuls of ice,
Leeching swirls of blood and coagulant.

He’s tired; his arms licked with salt
And heavier from the spray,
His body incised by three hernias—last year’s Jewfish
That hooked him to a bed for weeks.
Now, the fish boxes are half full

And leave pockets of air between each stack
In the chest freezer. I visited that evening;
His arms in electric hum—bottlebrushes of fibreglass
Sanding an upturned hull.
He’d murmur old stories like photographs

Of my grandfather; beach fires, jacket potatoes,
Al’ foil wrapped fish and the town
Before the servo re-dressed as a bed and breakfast.
Tar had brought Sydney-siders
Down for summer and he’d ask how father

Took the loss—how lung cancer trawls the body.
I’d mumble a nod, fixed on the roll of hands
Over ribbed body, drawn to the fountain fall of fibres
And the closeness of the fibro hut.
The wind drew in the night

Like the turn of venetian dowel;
Old nets bundled in the outhouse,
The smell of morning—a memory soaked in the grass,
Two gulls skittered along a galvanised gutter
And I caught glints in the tidemarks of his eyes.

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