In my father’s old bait and tackle shop
giant fish dangle from hooks near the men
grinning from ear to ear in the grainy,
soiled photographs clipped from newspapers
years ago before these same brave fishers
were diagnosed one by one with disease
or crippling forgetfulness or pains
brought on by the drag of time’s bright lure.
Inaudible prophets – dust minnows swim
in slides of dull light that call up dad’s ghost;
“Locust will fall in a plague of legions,
summon avengers from all the world’s seas,
phalanx of marlin clear the wave’s belly,
angels with no tongue and spears for faces.”
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2014. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2014 was Roderick Watson.
I've always been impressed and slightly horrified by those photos of 'men with their catch'; the combination of so explicit a demonstration of a hunter's prowess with the unabashed exhibition of pride that perhaps differentiates us from animals that kill primarily to survive. The words locust and marlin came into my head at some point and had a spell-like quality, linked also to the biblical quotation that prefaces this collection, and I wanted to create in this poem a depiction of the everyday reality of the human conundrum – men conquered by the truth of their own mortality, with a magical moment of visitation from another world; a prophetic ghost who speaks of vengeance to be wreaked on humankind for our selfishness and cruelty. Our memories of people keep them alive in this world, but we don't always listen to what they have to say.