Fish Fucking

Michael Blumenthal

This is not a poem about sex, or even
   about fish or the genitals of fish,
So if you are a fisherman or someone interested
   primarily in sex, this would be as good a time
As any to put another worm on your hook
   or find a poem that is really about fucking.
This, rather, is a poem about language,
   and about the connections between mind and ear
And the strange way a day makes its tenuous
   progress from almost anywhere.
Which is why I've decided to begin with the idea
   of fish fucking (not literally, mind you,
But the idea of fish fucking), because the other
   day, and a beautiful day it was, in Virginia
The woman I was with, commenting on the time
   between the stocking of a pond and the
First day of fishing season, asked me if this
   was perhaps because of the frequency with which
Fish fuck, and—though I myself know nothing at all
   about the fucking of fish—indeed, I believe
From the little biology I know that fish do not
   fuck at all as we know it, but rather the male
Deposits his sperm on the larvae, which the female,
   in turn, has deposited—yet the question
Somehow suggested itself to my mind as the starting
   point of the day, and from the idea of fish
Fucking came thoughts of the time that passes
   between things and our experience of them,
Not only between the stocking of the pond and our
   being permitted to fish in it, but the time,
For example, that passes between the bouncing
   of light on the pond and our perception of the
Pond, or between the time I say the word jujungawop
   and the moment that word bounces against your
Eardrum and the moment a bit further on when the
   nerves that run from the eardrum to the brain
Inform you that you do not, in fact, know
   the meaning of the word jujungawop, but this,
Perhaps, is moving a bit too far from the idea of
   fish fucking and how beautifully blue the pond was
That morning and how, lying among the reeds atop
   the dam and listening to the water run under it,
The thought occurred to me how the germ of an idea
   has little to do with the idea itself, and how
It is rather a small leap from fish fucking to the
   anthropomorphic forms in a Miró painting,
Or the way certain women, when they make love,
   pucker their lips and gurgle like fish, and how
This all points out how dangerous it is for a
   man or a woman who wants a poet's attention
To bring up an idea, even so ludicrous and
   biologically ungrounded a one as fish fucking,
Because the next thing she knows the mind is taking
   off over the dam from her beautiful face, off
Over the hills of Virginia, perhaps as far as Guatemala
   and the black bass that live in Lake Atitlán who
Feast on the flightless grebe, which is not merely
   a sexual thought or a fishy one, but a thought
About the cruelty that underlies even great beauty,
   the cruelty of nature and love and our lives which
We cannot do without and without which even the idea
   of fish fucking would be ordinary and no larger than
Itself, but to return now to that particular day, and to
   the idea of love, which inevitably arises from the
Thought that even so seemingly unintelligent a creature
   as a fish could hold his loved one, naked in the water,
And say to her, softly, Liebes, mein Lubes; it was
   indeed a beautiful day, the kind filled with anticipation
And longing for the small perfections usually found only
   in poems; the breeze was slight enough just to brush
A few of her hairs gently over one eye, the air was
   the scent of bayberry and pine as if the gods were
Burning incense in some heavenly living room, and
   as we lay among the reeds, our faces skyward,
The sun fondling our cheeks, it was as if each
   time we looked away from the world it took
On again a precise yet general luminescence when we
   returned to it, a clarity equally convincing as pain
But more pleasing to the senses, and though it was not
   such a moment of perfection as Keats or Hamsun
Speak of and for the sake of which we can go on for
   years almost blissful in our joylessness, it was
A day when at least the possibility of such a thing
   seemed possible: the deer tracks suggesting that
Deer do, indeed, come to the edge of the woods to feed
   at dusk, and the idea of fish fucking suggesting
A world so beautiful, so divine in its generosity
   that even the fish make love, even the fish live
Happily ever after, chasing each other, lustful
   as stars through the constantly breaking water.
From Days We Would Rather Know, published by The Viking Press. Copyright © 1984 by Michael Blumenthal. Used by permission of the author.

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