It was midnight. He pulled fish from the river
with a bright slapping sound, held them
bucking in the light of his fog lamps
while the engine steamed and snorted.
When he called me over I hid my notepad.
He said that now was the best time
and dipped his hands into the creaming flow;
moments later, he gripped a dace.
It was as if he had reached into a painting on a hot day
and retrieved a jug brimming with cider.
His adventures girdled the Earth,
and when he named the fish, he was naming the gods:
brittle star, lookdown, pacu, shanny.
He said his wife used to curse the late nights,
turn like a sack of rags when he crawled into bed
at 4, 5.
Now he could stay out as late as he liked.
He sat, wiped his palms on a grubby flannel.
Rainbows billowed in the water vapour.
I couldn’t think of anything to say
so I offered him a cough sweet;
he slipped it into his top pocket.
By his shin, six fish slopped in a bucket,
each one a gauntlet. He stood, and threw the lot back in.
Rushes hissed in the hot black wind;
we could not see the far bank, but we smelt it.
If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy my poetry collection, Pub Stuntman. You can order it here.
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