Tuesday, 17 March 2015

a cormorant (slight return)

Oops! I forgot this one:

A Cormorant

Here before me, snake-head.
My waders weigh seven pounds.

My Barbour jacket, mainly necessary
For its pockets, is proof

Against the sky at my back. My bag
Sags with lures and hunter’s medicine enough

For a year in the Pleistocene.
My hat, of use only

If this May relapses into March,
Embarrasses me, and my net, long as myself,

Optimistic, awkward, infatuated
With every twig-snag and fence-barb

Will slowly ruin the day. I paddle
Precariously on slimed shale,

And infiltrate twenty yards
Of gluey and magnetized spider-gleam

Into the elbowing dense jostle-traffic
Of the river’s tunnel, and pray

With futuristic, archaic under-breath
So that some fish, telepathically overpowered,

Will attach its incomprehension
To the bauble I offer to space in general.

The cormorant eyes me, beak uptilted,
Body-snake low — sea-serpentish.

He’s thinking: “Will that stump

Stay a stump just while I dive?” He dives.

He sheds everything from his tail end
Except fish-action, becomes fish,

Disappears from bird,
Dissolving himself

Into fish, so dissolving fish naturally
Into himself. Re-emerges, gorged,

Himself as he was, and escapes me.
Leaves me high and dry in my space-armour,

A deep-sea diver in two inches of water.

(Ted Hughes from A River, 1983)


Mike C. said...

A nice moment of humorous self-deprecation, there, from yer man, Ted, on behalf of our whole species. Fishing brings out the best in him. His "River" collection has become one my favourites -- I used to dislike it because I had the original edition illustrated with some awful photographs.


Dave Leeke said...

Have you just accepted the photos or somehow manage to ignore them?

I read an essay about Hughes and this collection is seen as one of his finest - I only really know some from an anthology. I see that there is another cormorant one in there, "The Rival". I guess I may need to read the whole set.

That's what I like about writing a blog - hopefully (semi) retirement will help me find time to write more - I can work out things I'm interested in and often be pointed towards other things I'm not fully aware of. I take far more notice photographs nowadays, for instance!

Dave Leeke said...

. . . but obviously not my editing skills! I meant "of" photographs.

Mike C. said...

No, I bought a copy of the current paperback -- just the poems -- which is much better.

I had a phase of collecting TH hardback 1st editions, esp. if illustrated by Leonard Baskin (love his work), and bought River despite the awful "Come to Devon!" calendar-style photos (by Peter Keen).


Dave Leeke said...

Okay, thanks, Mike. I'll investigate the current paperback. I tend to think woodcuts would work better for TH.