Morning Fishing Trips

A September Saturday in 1995
the four a.m. sea air is salt-sour
silicate sand shimmers
under the after-midnight-blue canopy
the waning moon a spotlight
on discarded worm skins

I dig since I’m the youngest –
because even morning fishing trips have hierarchies –
success arrives after ten minutes
of shovel and scoop
we loot the fresh bait
they can wriggle all they want
we own them now

we march in early morning muteness
preserving our energy
until we can cast off
and pour ourselves a flask-coffee
topped with a nip of whisky

destination reached we pick our spots
wisely or not
our rods are set
with hands stained with dying worm-dye

waiting for the first ripple
or bend of pole
the craic is quiet
about the things men like to talk about
as dawn passes over us

an hour passes by
then three of five rods
begin to quiver
the ancient part of our hunter-brains
spike our natural instincts

we let our rods sway
luring in the line tenderly
then reel rapidly
drawing in a decent-sized pollock
the crack of the baton
gives me the first of a few fish
caught before the nearby B&B’s
serve their breakfasts.

After some further success
we head back to the van
our shoal are all fair sizes
my pollock glimmering longest in the bucket
but hierarchies exist
and I may get landed with a small plaice
but where there are hierarchies
there are rites of passage
and it’s the first fish i’ve caught
so I get to keep it

I also get to gut all the catch
my fumbling numb fingers
dyed crimson by dead fish
find their rhythm
and I’m proud to be
on the first
rung of the hunter’s hierarchy.

I used to go fishing in Northumberland regularly, this poem is about when i first started out, I was 12. One of our neighbours took me with his friends, it was always a great experience.

I hope you like it.

Take it easy

Paul

The Fishermen

early morning
with the light muted
the sky still
a patchwork of slate and coal
they set sail
favours asked
of Pontus & Poseidon
hoping they are heard
over the wailing gulls and terns
they yearn for a return
to bountiful days
and bulging nets
of catching shoals of silver
in their pastel gilnetter
on the North Sea
once brimming
with fish glistening
just below the surface
when the Captain and his Crew
were daring
wide eyed wanderers
braving thunderous waves
and caressing calm waters
beating their adversaries
to the best loot
today they’re older
grizzled and weather-worn
with eyes the colour of their quarry
wearing woollen hats and neon overalls
they only dare to dream
of a fair catch and a fairer price
hoping to stay afloat
in a sinking industry.

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This poem is inspired by the hardworking fishermen who work the North Sea. Once a booming industry in the North East, sadly it has declined over the past 20-30 years.

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I love hearing your thoughts or any feedback you may have.