Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem - Poem for a Dying Fish


for Rufus, Siamese fighter (Betta splendens)

He appears to have grazed his chin, is bleeding

a slow grace note. An errant fin of red

curls off him, turns the waving water plants

the colour of pale wet donkey. At his peak, his skin

was Doris plum; fins splayed, loose and billowing

scales polished to a gem-blue shimmer. Always

a slow-motion swimmer he is skimming now

just below the surface, an upside-down dancer

of dubious grace, tethering bubbles to the meniscus

of his hour glass flask.


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  1. Oh! this is stunning - such images... such language ... wow. I love most of all the tenderness of the opening line laid onto the fact that this fish is a fighter, and the genius of the last line suggesting final gasps/final hours. The language at the end slays me: tethering bubbles to the meniscus of his hour glass flask'. I like that we both have poems this week with the word 'tethering' in them. X

  2. Fine poem, Claire. The death of a loved one has rarely been so well expressed.

  3. I too was struck by the imagery in this poem - most of all "the colour of pale wet donkey". That's brilliant.

  4. I liked the "scales polished to a gem-blue shimmer"---and the feeling in the whole poem. (I also really liked the paintings in the post below!) Thank you again, Claire.

  5. There's so much to love about this poem Claire. As always the language is satisfying and appealing.
    It has a pulse - a strong one - and life - even when describing the (seemingly insignificant)death of a small creature - you make it matter; and that's what the poem is saying, that all life matters, all is significant; and it says it so beautifully.

  6. This is definitely beautiful language,leaving me with such visual images of......doris plums,and pale wet donkeys and bleeding chins.Wow! I also love looking at the words on the screen and re-reading them as the images sink in.

  7. "Meniscus" is one of my favourite words, but I've never quite used it successfully in a poem.

  8. oh glord this is wonderful. your poetry and art make me feel like a gushing beginner and I love that feeling.

  9. ' dubious grace '

    yes, us all.


  10. Dear readers, I must apologize for not coming back to this post till now... I've been in a strange, unnameable place lately. I wouldn't know how to begin to describe it, save to say that bruising and deep exhaustion have lined its walls.

    Thank you for your generous responses to my fish poem. I was peculiarly attached to Rufus, couldn't bear to see him suffer. His was a slow dying. At some stage I intend to post a short piece about the relationship between Siamese Fighter fish and Peace Lilies. It's a wonderful metaphor for the internal struggles we have with our own 'fighter' and 'peace lover.' Each part, a warrior in its own way?

    Mary, Geoffrey, Tim, Helen, Kay, Richard, Catherine, Rebecca and Maggie... thanks for your words here.

    Take care (I will, too!)
    L, C xx