Salmon Fishing


Salmon Fishing

We stand in twos and threes, watch the dark sea pulse
through the narrow mouth of the bay; wait
for the under-belly of a wave to erupt as fish.
Cloud shrouds the mountains—the tip of Errigal
goes under and it spills over and down the back
of Muckish. I watch my feet sink slowly
in the sand as the horizon foams and falls by Tory.
A shout goes up! Three men race across the dunes,
drag the slender anchor onto the boat and clamber in,
one pulling at oars as the others feed the net
in a wide arc back to shore where, hand over hand,
we haul it in, heavy with its catch of water
and two mullet that flicker and slap
in the mesh. A fisherman stamps, with the scrunch
of boot on fish on wet sand the urgent muscle stops.
He yanks at its gills to reveal a mess of blood and bone
and flesh.
All evening I have been tempted
by this neat metaphor: this staring at wave
and shadow, the feeding out of a net of language,
the need to disentangle each mesh to feed
out again after the shout goes up. Yes,
and the anchor, the boat etc—but the dead mullet
has put paid to that.
What I need to know
is what the salmon know. How a shoal spawned
at the source of the Ray enters Ballyness Bay
and one leaps, knows they have come too far
so back they go—
away from this wrong source, the Tulloghobegly—
out the narrow neck of the bay, right into the Atlantic
and along the strand a mile or so till they reach the Ray.
What sensors, scents or pull of tide, what internal
geography, what physiology could navigate this?
I try to understand, learn, recall logic may only be
part of what goes on; today I sat with a friend, she
left with I can hear that baby cry and must get
home and I do not know how I will cope
with breasts full of milk that weep on hearing
a baby cry—still too scared I will be that girl again;
the simple lines of the self she knew altered
and she disowned a body she thought betrayed her
as a stranger's hands ground in its narrow neck,
swallowed a cry from a place so dark and deep
that it began to weep blood.
I want to know what the salmon know.