poet Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop

#80 on top 500 poets

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
- the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly-
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
- It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
- if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003
Poem Edited: Friday, May 17, 2013

Rating Card

The Fish # 114 poem on top 500 Poems
3,5 out of 5
118 total ratings
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Comments about The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

  • elizabETTHHHH (9/11/2020 3:18:00 PM)

    THIS IS DUMB WHY AM I HAVIUNG TIO READ THIS UDMB DUMB DUMB FISHHHH

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  • Masefield.Susan (4/23/2020 5:07:00 AM)

    4677 Whitney Ct

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  • Spenser.Hebe (4/17/2020 3:19:00 PM)

    4093 W Dawson Ave

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  • Elizabeth Bishop (3/24/2020 11:32:00 PM)

    Who wrote this? Who was it! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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  • gordon ramsey (2/18/2020 1:16:00 PM)

    this poem is literally about some chick catching a fish and releasing it. tf

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  • lexie (1/16/2020 10:44:00 PM)

    lots of detail about the fish.

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  • mr. meme big boy (1/10/2020 2:52:00 PM)

    why am i reading this smh -_-

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  • Maria (12/5/2019 3:56:00 PM)

    Such vivid explanations are entertaining to read.

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  • Elizabeth (10/1/2019 7:28:00 AM)

    What happened to the boat

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  • damarra (9/17/2019 8:45:00 PM)

    Its about the life of a fish, the get away of the fish and the victory of getting away it kind of the life as a person that wears theirs losses as a victory to never forget what it takes to be free. Now at the end he knows that it is the end and that's why he didn't fight this time get away

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  • Tanya (9/14/2019 6:02:00 PM)

    they did not said what happen to the boat.

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  • LeAnn (9/11/2019 4:51:00 PM)

    Its about a fish that got away.

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  • emily (8/20/2019 11:39:00 AM)

    this poem was not that great it was about a weird fish

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    1234567(4/17/2020 12:31:00 PM)

    im wid u gurl

    5 person liked.
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  • daddy (8/20/2019 10:48:00 AM)

    this poem is dog

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  • edward (6/8/2019 10:03:00 PM)

    a touching piece of work that I will remember whenever I'm fishing

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  • chevonda hunt (5/27/2019 5:42:00 PM)

    this poem have a sweet rhyme and repetition and it remind me of my first fishing trip

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  • Newnew (5/14/2019 7:11:00 PM)

    these comments have me BARKINGGG

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  • Meagan Treat (5/8/2019 10:47:00 PM)

    This poem went beyond my expectations!

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  • Brian Taylor (4/22/2019 5:31:00 PM)

    This is a nice poem.

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  • Chloe Hopper (4/4/2019 11:45:00 AM)

    The poem was very well written and descriptive.

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    4 person liked.
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Rating Card

The Fish # 114 poem on top 500 Poems
3,5 out of 5
118 total ratings
rate this poem



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Read poems about / on: rainbow, fish, pink, green, water, lost, sea, sun, light, fishing, swimming, rose