NaPoWriMo 2.14: Questions To The Huddersfield Broad Canal Fishing Lady

But is she among them…?

It’s a catch up day again – I’m finding that poetry gathering- and writing-binges are how I’m doing NaPoWriMo today…

So here’s the all-questions-and-a-statement poem which – without knowing about the imminent terza rima (which I’m doing next) – has a similar-ish interlocking rhyme structure.

The subject for my questioning poem is a lady we see fishing in the canal near where we’re moored. Fishing being largely dominated by white blokes, she stood out in being of East Asian descent (or East Asian, I know not) and not carrying all the kit (as many anglers do as they populate the towpath of a Sunday). So she stands out in that regard as an angler – and in her manner.

She sits looking quite mysterious and rather well-dressed, sort of glamorous. We’ve tried saying hello when we’ve gone past on the boat, but she seems then to slope away unsmilingly. Perhaps it’s interrupting her quiet thinking/fishing time, time to gaze at the water – which is, I think, the real/main reason for fishing as sport…

(As my Mum once pointed out, if you took a bag of kittens to the local river and started dunking them to the point of drowning, there’d be an outcry – but sticking a hook in a fish’s mouth and hauling it out of the water until it’s nearly dead is, apparently, entirely different).

So the Huddersfield Broad Canal Fishing Lady is something of a mystery – and here’s my poem of questions to her:

 

To The Huddersfield Broad Canal Fishing Lady

 

Why do you fish in the Broad Canal?

Is your little white handbag stuffed with worms?

Do you model for unseen cameras, so stern?

Have you always fished in the Broad Canal?

 

Does your handbag flash-bulb, when it is time?

What need of such style for a sport so banal?

What towpath could call to a runway girl?

Is your bag paparazzi at fishing time?

 

Are the hooks that you use made of thin air?

Do the fish fill your silence, are you always a mime?

Do they peep up like journos, from down in the grime?

Are your hooks in the water just bubbles of air?

 

Would you be heron, or would you be crane?

Do you speak with the others, know all the right terms?

Are your sequins scraped scales, whereon sunlight squirms?

I cast out enigma, I reel in the same: a feathered reflection, a vanishing crane.

 

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Crinkly Fingers or, A Lonely Fisherman Sings to the Catch

The Loneliness of a (Prune-Fingered) Trawler Fisherman

This morning, I read a lovely news story by Jonathan Amos about research on crinkly fingers:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20951232

Scientists led by Dr Tom Smulders have discovered that prune-like bath-fingers may have more to them than simple ‘Ooh, look how old and wrinkled my fingers look!’ value. They have surmised that this may be an evolutionary development to aid in handling wet objects: in their experiment, this was marbles – but out in ‘nature’, this could be fruit or fish, I suppose. Or anything that is – as the saying goes – slippery when wet (is it a saying, or just something that many things are?).

The researchers asked people to carry out a marble-moving task and discovered that those who had wet hands – and consequently got prune-fingers – were more effective at the task. I suppose if those marbles were actually tiny berries, or some curious spherical animal-foodstuff (wood-lice? frog-spawn? Small wet round things all seem a bit witch-y…), then having crinkly fingers could make all the difference to a hunter-gather-omnivore species like Homo Sapiens Sapiens. The difference between eating (and being ‘selected’ by evolution) and starving (and being ‘out of the evolutionary race’). So perhaps that’s why – so the researchers say – it might be triggered involuntarily by our nervous system, instead of being simply a ‘side-effect’ of being soggy.

As I enjoyed the story so much, I thought I’d base one of this week’s sci-poems around it. Here’s a sort of ballad, or song, I suppose – written by a character I thought would have wet, crinkly, prune fingers much of the time – a fisherman. Perhaps I’ve seen too many Neutrogena adverts, or something. (And maybe as a boat-dweller, I’m drawn to such characters!)

As it went on, it evolved (as poems and humans do) into something a little sad (and silly, all at once) – but I hope you enjoy its rhyme-y mariner-y quality.

(Incidentally, while looking for some appropriate music, I found Britten’s ‘Four Sea Interludes’: I hadn’t ever listened all the way through and I recommend them – incredibly oceanic, panoramic and gorgeous).

 

A Lonely Fisherman Sings to the Catch

 

My coral fingers, these shrivelled hands

Grasping now Oceans, are slipp’d from land,

But my ship and the mesh, they can be no match:

For you are slippery when wet, dear Catch,

And your flicking tail is hard to get.

 

The crests of waves are your steely eyes,

Your limbs froth the clouds from the salty skies –

Yet my bark only ever glimpses a snatch:

For you are flicking hard to get, dear Catch,

Though my gaze and fingers are become a net.

 

These delta’d thumbs, these puckered claws –

Could they not lift you up from the swell’s great maws?

I will climb down the line, I will scratch at the deck

If you ne’er flicker in my net, dear Catch.

My candle sinks low now, my eyes stinging wet.

For your light slips away, dear, and the night’s bitter yet.

 

Oh and if you enjoyed that one, then here’s a link to another piece – Powder-Monkey – which I wrote a couple of years ago and is of a similarly seafaring and slightly-tragic (and very rhyme-centric, as a villanelle) vibe:

http://skylabstories.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/powder-monkey/