Red Cod

Red Cod

Aged eleven
I biked to the wharf,
my grandfather͛s fishing rod,
carefully carried,
sheep͛s-heart bait and knife
in my school bag.

In the murky half-light
fish factory waste spilling out
herring fish could be foul-hooked –
offering brief shudders of indignation
as I hauled out one after another
for no good reason,

it haunts me.

As does that afternoon, four to four-thirty
the great haul
red cod, some ten or twelve
one after the other
the thrill of the bite
the audience and admiration.

A man with his daughter,
observing the latest fish
mouth gaping beside
the glaze-eyed others
asked me
what my intentions were.
My answer in an instant
oh you don’t
eat them, they have worms.

He turned away
leaving a stare that troubled me.
Not knowing where to look
I observed blood and something else on my shoe.

Once I met a diver at Akaroa.
My daughter and I were sitting with lines over the edge,
me, of all people,
offering advice about waiting
and her feeling the world about to end.

He was full of his morning swim
at the heads and the
shoals
of red cod
hundreds
darting below him
shimmering
his eyes full of the wonder of them

and me
still wanting to pluck one out
for my daughter
to have a memory
she could do without.

martin stewart 2016

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