Friday, June 8, 2012

Poetry Friday--The Fate of Fishermen


I don't eat fish with scales and fins except for the occasional tunafish sandwich. I've never liked fish, and now, it's too late to change my mind. Still, I appreciate those who risk their lives on the water to harvest the sea's bounty. So, today I'd like to share a poem by Mary Oliver and another by Shirley Graves Cochrane. (Cochrane's poem I posted at my library blog back in March, but it is a poem that sticks with me and begs to be repeated.) Despite being very different, both end nearly the same.
The Waves
by Mary Oliver

The sea
    isn't a place
        but a fact, and
            a mystery

under its green and black
    cobbled coat that never
        stops moving.
            When death

happens on land, on some
    hairpin piece of road,
        we crawl past,
            imagining

over and over that moment
    of disaster. After the storm
        the other boats didn't
            hesitate--they spun out

from the rickety pier, the men
    bent to the nets or turning
        the weedy winches.
            Surely the sea

is the most beautiful fact
    in our universe, but
        you won't find a fisherman
            who will say so;

what they say is,
    See you later.
        Gulls white as angels scream
            as they float in the sun

just off the sterns;
    everything is here
        that you could ever imagine.
            And the bones

of the drowned fisherman
    are returned, half a year later,
        in the glittering,
            laden nets.


Irish Sweaters
by Shirley Graves Cochrane

"Ladies and gentlemen--
the sweaters of old Ireland!"
and down the runway come
Maeve and Erin and the other Dublin models
hips switching, eyes scorning
and Maurice, sheepish in his cowl.
"Each household has its special pattern--
you could tell a family sweater anywhere."

Aye--even at the bottom of the sea:
for grannies knit the shrouds of grandson
fishermen who never learned to swim
(to keep the agony of drowning short).
And long after the eyes were gone
and fish explored the geography of skull
the sweaters held and told us who they were--
Cormac and Tom and even Donovan.

See how the stitches knit the bones together.

Now, to counteract the depressing mood I've probably left you in, go visit Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup for the Round-Up. You can never visit Jama and not come away feeling lightened, refreshed, and completely nourished!

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

10 comments:

violet said...

What a strong duet of poems... Oh my! Shivers, but worth the read. Thank you.

Renee LaTulippe said...

Wow, "Irish Sweaters" gave me goosebumps. "To keep the agony of drowning short" -- is there truth to that?

On a lighter note, I totally relate to the eating fish thing - ICK! I'm in the midst of writing an anti-ode to seafood, in fact. :)

Andy said...

"Surely the sea
is the most beautiful fact
in our universe, but
you won't find a fisherman
who will say so . . . "

Beautiful. Haunting. Thank you!

Doraine Bennett said...

Beautiful. I'm loving the same line Andy quoted. "You won't find a fisherman/who will say so..."
Thanks for these.

jama said...

Well, I'm a fish lover! It's my favorite meat.

These poems are beautiful and haunting as others have mentioned. Never really considered the "dark" side of a fisherman's life until I recently saw "The Perfect Storm." And today your poems . . .

Ruth said...

I love fish, but these poems are certainly sobering. The detail about the grandmothers knitting the grandsons' shrouds is striking.

Mary Lee said...

I didn't believe that they would be the same until I read them both. WOW! Thanks for a great pairing!!

Diane Mayr said...

I'm glad my choices worked for everyone. They certainly are two striking poems!

Travel Guides for Women said...

Nice!

Rena J. Traxel said...

A bit haunting! I don't like to eat anything that comes out of the sea been like that since I can remember.