The Drunken Fisherman

Robert Lowell

 
Wallowing in this bloody sty,
I cast for fish that pleased my eye
(Truly Jehovah's bow suspends
No pots of gold to weight its ends);
Only the blood-mouthed rainbow trout
Rose to my bait.  They flopped about
My canvas creel until the moth
Corrupted its unstable cloth.
A calendar to tell the day;
A handkerchief to wave away
The gnats; a couch unstuffed with storm
Pouching a bottle in one arm;
A whiskey bottle full of worms;
And bedroom slacks: are these fit terms
To mete the worm whose molten rage
Boils in the belly of old age?
Once fishing was a rabbit's foot--
O wind blow cold, O wind blow hot,
Let suns stay in or suns step out:
Life danced a jig on the sperm-whale's spout--
The fisher's fluent and obscene
Catches kept his conscience clean.
Children, the raging memory drools
Over the glory of past pools.
Now the hot river, ebbing, hauls
Its bloody waters into holes;
A grain of sand inside my shoe
Mimics the moon that might undo
Man and Creation too; remorse,
Stinking, has puddled up its source;
Here tantrums thrash to a whale's rage.
This is the pot-hole of old age.
Is there no way to cast my hook
Out of this dynamited brook?
The Fisher's sons must cast about
When shallow waters peter out.
I will catch Christ with a greased worm,
And when the Prince of Darkness stalks
My bloodstream to its Stygian term . . .
On water the Man-Fisher walks.
 
From Selected Poems by Robert Lowell, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1976, 1977 by Robert Lowell. Used by permission.

Poems by This Author

"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage" by Robert Lowell
The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open
Dolphin by Robert Lowell
My Dolphin, you only guide me by surprise,
Epilogue by Robert Lowell
Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme--
For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell
The old South Boston Aquarium stands
History by Robert Lowell
History has to live with what was here,
Home After Three Months Away by Robert Lowell
Gone now the baby's nurse,
Homecoming by Robert Lowell
What was is . . . since 1930;
Man and Wife by Robert Lowell
Tamed by Miltown, we lie on Mother's bed;
Memories of West Street and Lepke by Robert Lowell
Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
Skunk Hour by Robert Lowell
Nautilus Island's hermit
The Public Garden by Robert Lowell
The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket by Robert Lowell
A brackish reach of shoal off Madaket--
Waking in the Blue by Robert Lowell
The night attendant, a B.U. sophomore


Further Reading

Related Poems
The Fisherman
by W. B. Yeats
Zerogarden
by Andrew Zawacki
Poems about Drinking
"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage"
by Robert Lowell
Driving and Drinking [North to Parowan Gap]
by David Lee
A Drinking Song
by W. B. Yeats
A Glass of Beer
by James Stephens
At the Blue Note
by Pablo Medina
Be Drunk
by Charles Baudelaire
California Plush
by Frank Bidart
Compulsively Allergic to the Truth
by Jeffrey McDaniel
Dangerous for Girls
by Connie Voisine
Days of Me
by Stuart Dischell
Deer Dancer
by Joy Harjo
Deer Hit
by Jon Loomis
Fallen Apples
by Tom Hansen
Father Listens to the Artists
by David Petruzelli
Homecoming
by Robert Lowell
I Love the Hour Just Before
by Todd Boss
I taste a liquor never brewed (214)
by Emily Dickinson
In Knowledge of Young Boys
by Toi Derricotte
In Vino Veritas
by Howard Altmann
Jet
by Tony Hoagland
Joey Awake Now
by Glyn Maxwell
Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Michael's Wine
by Sandra Alcosser
My Papa's Waltz
by Theodore Roethke
Nights
by Harvey Shapiro
On 52nd Street
by Philip Levine
Parties: A Hymn of Hate
by Dorothy Parker
Picking Up
by Evelyn Duncan
Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey
by Hayden Carruth
Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump
by David Bottoms
The Bottom
by Denise Duhamel
The Eternal City
by Jim Simmerman
The Silence
by Philip Schultz
the suicide kid
by Charles Bukowski
The Summer House
by Tony Connor
Vodka
by Joel Brouwer
When a Woman Loves a Man
by David Lehman
Wine Tasting
by Kim Addonizio
Poems about Old Age
A Fear of Old Age
by Jack Anderson
An Old-Fashioned Song
by John Hollander
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Eden
by David Woo
If You Get There Before I Do
by Dick Allen
Old Black Men
by Georgia Douglas Johnson
Telling
by Elisabeth Frost
The Golden Years
by Billy Collins
The High-Toned Old Christian Woman
by Wallace Stevens
The Summer House
by Tony Connor
The Transparent Man
by Anthony Hecht
To Her Body, Against Time
by Robert Kelly
Poems about Whales
The Feeling of the World As a Bounded Whale Is the Mystical [The child affixes]
by Darcie Dennigan
For Tranströmer
by Norman Dubie
Of Politics, & Art
by Norman Dubie
Sojourn in the Whale
by Marianne Moore
Whales Weep Not!
by D. H. Lawrence
World Below the Brine
by Walt Whitman