Although I didn’t write about it last week, I actually did manage to finish reading a novel! And I even finished one this week, too. That puts me at 24 books this year! Last week, I read Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, and I’ve literally just now finished reading Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook: a Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry. As for next week’s books… we’ll see🤷♀️
I got angry today. The specifics of it aren’t really all that important. But I got angry, and then I got angry at myself for getting angry!
“F**k!” I thought to myself. “I’ve worked so hard on my anger problems, just for them to come back?!”
And after wondering about that, I realized just how incredibly silly it all was. Getting angry is healthy. Feeling angry is especially healthy after being disrespected. And disrespected I was.
Anger is natural and healthy and justified and beautiful and I’m tired of pretending that it’s not!
Anyways, there was a poem included in Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook that I found particularly striking; The Fish 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.
Was the fish angry the first 5 times it was hooked? Or was it scared? I like to think that it was mad. Furious, even. Maybe it was justified rage and youthful zeal that gave the fish the strength to break free those first times.
In college, my friend used to tell me never to go with the flow.
“Always swim upstream, Nance! Do you know why? It’s the dead fishes that let themselves get carried downstream.”
Thank you so much for reading! 🎣