Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Sleeping with the fishes and Mark Doty

I had an encounter of the fish kind, or rather the human kind today. Whilst ruminating over the fish counter at the supermarket I asked the young girl serving how old the mackerel were. Yes I know that sounds 'grumpy old womanish' and it is unlikely that the truth will be told . A good fishmonger would have sold me the story that these mackerel were only landed yesterday and were still hung about with the scent of salty spray. She would have told me they were mackerel that had been no where near the Firth Of Forth, given its recent sewage injection. These were mackerel of unparalleled provenance. The girl stared at the fish and they stared back at her in what I thought was a rather ironic and glazed way , mirroring her own rather bored expression.
'I haven't got a clue I'm afraid, how do you tell the age of a fish." she replied
I was rather tempted to give her a specious lecture on their age being calculated by the number of stripes on their skin, like trees and their rings.Perhaps these were indeed ancient mackerel who had swum with U boats, lost galleons, Viking raiders, bronze age coracles and had survived the ice ages in the warm belly of a prehistoric whale.The mackerel glistened, their upturned mouths looked almost as if they were laughing. These were dead fish with a knowing attitude.

Whilst on holiday in the USA last summer I came a cross a van in the car park of an Eastern seaboard port that had the motto, 'We specialise in cold dead fish'...see the photograph above. This van moved and reappeared at very late and very early hours. I built up a whole back history for this van as a disposal truck for the Soprano type men that hung around the bars near the harbour and in nearby Boston. I never saw any large objects wrapped in polythene and weighted with bricks being dragged from the back of the van at night and dumped onto the deck of some waiting fishing boat but I did hear long shaggy dog stories (or should they be called scaly fish stories) from local fishermen about the severed body parts they sometimes pulled up in their nets , which they said they never reported as it would mean endless good fishing time being wasted talking to the police. I thought these were tales for the tourists,until a local retired coast guard officer regaled me with actual factual accounts of gun smuggling by the IRA in the seventies from the port and the resultant sea body count of those that might know too much and be less than tight lipped. There is something about a dead fish eye that says something more than just dead, maybe what passed before those eyes as they moved through seas and oceans is written onto them.
Best fish poem is a toss up between Elizabeth Bishop and Mark Doty. As I've posted a Bishop poem recently I'm going to plump for Mark Doty's, A Display of Mackerel

I have, as, your far from dead eyes, will note played about with the background colours and text colour and size on the blog. With my professional hat on I know that black text on a pale yellow background affords many, those with sight problems and those with dyslexia, a better reading experience. If a few people tell me they hate it I will ignore them, if many people say they can't get along with it I shall consider changing it back. Don't you just love socialistic tendencies and benevolent dictatorship existing in one body politic...much like the recent French election results.

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