Fish Poems - Poems For Fish

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The Fish - Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

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.


Comments about The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

  • Gold Star - 11,472 Points Sylva-onyema Uba (2/19/2017 11:55:00 PM)

    ...rainbow! rainbow!

    Well written and expressed piece of poem.

    Sylva (Report) Reply

    10 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Bronze Star - 2,512 Points Bill Grace (2/15/2017 11:41:00 PM)

    If i am correct she publishes only 100 poems but (Lordy!) the first 3 i have read take this poet's breath away. Bill Grace (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 37,671 Points Spock The Vegan (12/27/2015 6:19:00 PM)

    What a great poem, but a fish story, so I don't believe it happened. I may have to add her to my favorite poets list. (Report) Reply

    Gold Star - 37,671 Points Spock The Vegan (5/7/2017 10:28:00 AM)

    After re-reading it, I think it happened. Not sure why I said that. Trying to be facetious?

    Gold Star - 100,124 Points Kim Barney (5/7/2017)

    Personally, I DO believe it happened. I attended a poetry seminar today where this very poem was read by a professor of a local university. Everyone there was blown away by this poem. I couldn't wait to get home and boot up my computer to read it again on Poem Hunter.
    A fantastic poem.

Read all 17 comments »

Poems About Fish

  1. 1. The Fish , Elizabeth Bishop
  2. 2. The Fish , William Butler Yeats
  3. 3. What Fish Feel , Matsuo Basho
  4. 4. A Wreath To The Fish , Nancy Willard
  5. 5. The Goose Fish , Howard Nemerov
  6. 6. Our Biggest Fish , Eugene Field
  7. 7. A Fish Answers , James Henry Leigh Hunt
  8. 8. The Fish , Marianne Moore
  9. 9. Fish Crier , Carl Sandburg
  10. 10. A Mullet Is Not A Fish? ? , Sidi J. Mahtrow
  11. 11. Fish, The , Rupert Brooke
  12. 12. I Laugh When I Hear That The Fish In The.. , Kabir
  13. 13. The Lung Fish , Banjo Paterson
  14. 14. Yes, The Fish Music , Richard Brautigan
  15. 15. We Fish , Herman Melville
  16. 16. The Fish , Rupert Brooke
  17. 17. Fish And Shadow , Ezra Pound
  18. 18. Caring For A Dead Fish , Pete Crowther
  19. 19. Fish , Keki Daruwalla
  20. 20. Fish , Moniza Alvi
  21. 21. To A Fish , James Henry Leigh Hunt
  22. 22. Fish And Water , Raveendran N.V.
  23. 23. Aquarium Fish , Padraic Colum
  24. 24. Upon The Fish In The Water , John Bunyan
  25. 25. A Golden Fish , ONElia AVElar
  26. 26. A Fish In The Sea Of Tears , Asif Andalib
  27. 27. Fish Dialogues , Ahmad Shiddiqi
  28. 28. Fish ‘n Chips - Food Of Life , Mark R Slaughter
  29. 29. It's Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel Call.. , Joe Rosochacki
  30. 30. 2011 Global Fish Extinction Crisis , Terence George Craddock (Spe ..
  31. 31. Does A Fish Go Pee? , Cathe Ferguson
  32. 32. Y/ Flying Fish , Aufie Zophy
  33. 33. If You Give Someone A Fish , Ahmad Shiddiqi
  34. 34. Fish , Larry Levis
  35. 35. A Waltz Wave: A Fish Jumps , Lillian Susan Thomas
  36. 36. 'A True Fish Story' , Linda Winchell
  37. 37. Fish Food (An Obituary To Hart Crane) , John Brooks Wheelwright
  38. 38. What The Fish-Man Said , John Carter Brown
  39. 39. A Do-Before-Danger Fish , Rajaram Ramachandran
  40. 40. ! ! ! The Fish Travels Home , Raveendran N.V.
  41. 41. Swimming Fish , cherassery damodaran binish
  42. 42. Fish Tale , Sonny Rainshine
  43. 43. Fish Pond At 60 , William F Dougherty
  44. 44. Fish Food , John Wheelwright
  45. 45. Fish For Dinner , Herbert Nehrlich
  46. 46. Drunken Dancing Fish , Smoky Hoss
  47. 47. Big Fish Small Pond , JOE POEWHIT
  48. 48. The Carpenter Fish , Diane Hine
  49. 49. {{{ A Special Fish For Me? }}} , Linda I. Weischedel
  50. 50. Flying Fish , Gert Strydom
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