The Pipe Fish – Kim Baker

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1984 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: Anthony Thwaite, Howard Sergeant

Her sharpened quill face rises
Of the long inky bowel of the sea,
As the mallet of water pounds on
Plinths of wet shingle,
Folding and piling loose stones
In shifting tidal sculptures.
Dumped tons dug and roiled
Back from the black sea bed.
Every crooked claw, ripped fin
Returns to the rush and sift
Of the particled beach,
Back down to the hungry sediment
That eats its salt histories whole.

Dragon-headed her black brain shrivels
As she stiffens under the sun,
A thin un-eyed thread of gut and bone,
Taut in a film of scales
With tightening scabs of salt.
Narrow as a ribbon, she splits
At the seams and a dribble of amber
Is unbagged at her belly.
Each soft roe is yolked with a
Speck of cell adrift in a dot of ocean,
Muddied still with silt of mollusc
And coral, shrunk deep under
Sliding shark shadows.

The pipe fish dries, empties of
Old sea ghosts and her unspermed fry
Who rise; rise damp above brittle
Heads of sea holly, horned poppy
That root and wait for their season,
Be-whiskered and crippled with thorns.

Copyright © Kim Baker 1984




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