Fish Fucking

- 1949-
This is not a poem about sex, or even
   about fish or the genitals of fish, 
So if you are a fisherman or someone interested
   primarily in sex, this would be as good a time
As any to put another worm on your hook 
   or find a poem that is really about fucking. 

This, rather, is a poem about language, 
   and about the connections between mind and ear
And the strange way a day makes its tenuous
   progress from almost anywhere. 

Which is why I've decided to begin with the idea
   of fish fucking (not literally, mind you, 
But the idea of fish fucking), because the other
   day, and a beautiful day it was, in Virginia
The woman I was with, commenting on the time
   between the stocking of a pond and the 

First day of fishing season, asked me if this
   was perhaps because of the frequency with which
Fish fuck, and—though I myself know nothing at all
   about the fucking of fish—indeed, I believe 

From the little biology I know that fish do not
   fuck at all as we know it, but rather the male
Deposits his sperm on the larvae, which the female, 
   in turn, has deposited—yet the question 
Somehow suggested itself to my mind as the starting
   point of the day, and from the idea of fish 

Fucking came thoughts of the time that passes
   between things and our experience of them, 
Not only between the stocking of the pond and our
   being permitted to fish in it, but the time, 

For example, that passes between the bouncing
   of light on the pond and our perception of the
Pond, or between the time I say the word jujungawop
   and the moment that word bounces against your 
Eardrum and the moment a bit further on when the
   nerves that run from the eardrum to the brain 

Inform you that you do not, in fact, know 
   the meaning of the word jujungawop, but this,
Perhaps, is moving a bit too far from the idea of 
   fish fucking and how beautifully blue the pond was 

That morning and how, lying among the reeds atop 
   the dam and listening to the water run under it, 
The thought occurred to me how the germ of an idea
   has little to do with the idea itself, and how 
It is rather a small leap from fish fucking to the
   anthropomorphic forms in a Miró painting, 

Or the way certain women, when they make love,
   pucker their lips and gurgle like fish, and how
This all points out how dangerous it is for a 
   man or a woman who wants a poet's attention 

To bring up an idea, even so ludicrous and 
   biologically ungrounded a one as fish fucking,
Because the next thing she knows the mind is taking 
   off over the dam from her beautiful face, off 
Over the hills of Virginia, perhaps as far as Guatemala 
   and the black bass that live in Lake Atitlán who 

Feast on the flightless grebe, which is not merely
   a sexual thought or a fishy one, but a thought 
About the cruelty that underlies even great beauty,
   the cruelty of nature and love and our lives which 

We cannot do without and without which even the idea
   of fish fucking would be ordinary and no larger than
Itself, but to return now to that particular day, and to 
   the idea of love, which inevitably arises from the 
Thought that even so seemingly unintelligent a creature
   as a fish could hold his loved one, naked in the water, 

And say to her, softly, Liebes, mein Lubes; it was 
   indeed a beautiful day, the kind filled with anticipation 
And longing for the small perfections usually found only 
   in poems; the breeze was slight enough just to brush 

A few of her hairs gently over one eye, the air was
   the scent of bayberry and pine as if the gods were
Burning incense in some heavenly living room, and
   as we lay among the reeds, our faces skyward, 
The sun fondling our cheeks, it was as if each 
   time we looked away from the world it took 

On again a precise yet general luminescence when we 
   returned to it, a clarity equally convincing as pain 
But more pleasing to the senses, and though it was not 
   such a moment of perfection as Keats or Hamsun 

Speak of and for the sake of which we can go on for 
   years almost blissful in our joylessness, it was 
A day when at least the possibility of such a thing 
   seemed possible: the deer tracks suggesting that 
Deer do, indeed, come to the edge of the woods to feed
   at dusk, and the idea of fish fucking suggesting 

A world so beautiful, so divine in its generosity 
   that even the fish make love, even the fish live 
Happily ever after, chasing each other, lustful 
   as stars through the constantly breaking water.

More by Michael Blumenthal

Be Kind

Not merely because Henry James said
there were but four rules of life—
be kind be kind be kind be kind—but
because it's good for the soul, and, 
what's more, for others, it may be
that kindness is our best audition
for a worthier world, and, despite
the vagueness  and uncertainty of
its recompense, a bird may yet  wander
into a bush before our very houses, 
gratitude may not manifest itself in deeds
entirely equal to our own, still there's
weather arriving from every direction,
the feasts of famine and feasts of plenty
may yet prove to be one,  so why not
allow the little sacrificial squinches and 
squigulas to prevail? Why not inundate
the particular world with minute particulars?
Dust's certainly all our fate, so why not 
make it the happiest possible dust, 
a detritus of blessedness? Surely
the hedgehog, furling and unfurling
into its spiked little ball, knows something
that, with gentle touch and unthreatening
tone, can inure to our benefit, surely the wicked 
witches of our childhood have died and, 
from where they are buried, a great kindness 
has eclipsed their misdeeds. Yes, of course, 
in the end so much comes down to privilege 
and its various penumbras, but too much 
of our unruly animus has already been 
wasted on reprisals, too much of the
unblessed air is filled with smoke from 
undignified fires. Oh friends, take
whatever kindness you can find
and be profligate in its expenditure: 
It will not drain your limited resources, 
I assure you, it will not leave you vulnerable 
and unfurled, with only your sweet little claws 
to defend yourselves, and your wet little noses, 
and your eyes to the ground, and your little feet.

Stones

A man in terror of impotence
or infertility, not knowing the difference . . . . 
                                             Adrienne Rich


We live in dread of something:

Need, perhaps. Tears,
the air inside a woman's dress,
the deep breath of non-ambition.

In a valley of stone,
men had to carry stones.
In a sea of fertility,
women could drown
in the wake of conceptions.

We no longer build in stone—
houses of rice paper, beds
of feather. Manhood
is the one stone we still
insist on, lifting it

From abandoned quarries,
carrying it on our backs
even when we make love,
until the woman beneath us
calls passion a kind of

Suffocation, surfaces for air
like a young child whose head
has been pushed beneath the water,
a way to learn swimming.

Did you come? we ask,
her head bobbing above the brine
that pours from us. Applause
is what we want now,

Her wet hands
clapping in the last wind
before she sinks again,
before she holds us again
so tight we both plunge
like a cry for help
into the water,

Before we fall to the bottom—

Stones
not even the fish
will pause to tell apart.

Jew

for Isaac Bashevis Singer


The melancholy of Chopin and cruel breathing
folds back your sheets,
and you rise like lightly leavened bread,
like all the old, arthritic Jews left in the world,
from your Sabbatical sleep.

You rise and wipe the crusted blood
from your doorpost, kiss the angled mezuzah,
and are grateful you have again been spared
the pestilence and the lice,
the hailstones and the fissuring earth,
the ambiguous knife of Abraham.

You go to the window, and through the Jew-eyes
of this life you watch children stomp
their booted feet against the sidewalk,
grandmothers and grandfathers sew yellow stars
onto their lapels and wrap their hungry bones
in the long phylacteries.

It is 1979, you know it, but you have slept
like a Jew. And dreamt like a Jew. And the dreams
of all the persecuted Jews (the Jews chased
by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Jews
converted by the Egyptians and the Romans and
the Hari Krishnas, the Jews baked like strudel
and refined into lampshades by the resourceful Germans)
swim like fresh sperm into the ovaries of your sleep,
and you wake, pregnant and nauseous with Jew
and with history
and with your ambivalent God.

And then you go to the table,
and (though you never believed
God could enter through your mouth)
you eat like a Jew,
you feel the milk that does not want to sleep
with the meat, and the meat that does not want
to sleep with the milk, and you feel
the stones of some vague guilt, the stones
of immer Morgen, Morgen
of the anxious bridegroom, Doom,
and the reluctant bride, Joy,
turn in your stomach like the ballast of some
Hassidic boat that refuses to sail on the Sabbath.
And it is always the Sabbath.

And then you go to your bed,
and you make love to your wife like a Jew,
with your desperate tongue and your mutilated penis
and your envy of womanhood grown so large
you are the best lover in the world, better
than Robert Redford and all the goyische skiers,
better than the Black athletes with their beautiful,
round buttocks that turn like greased bearings
in your wife's Jew-hating dreams.

Related Poems

Unnatural Selections: A Meditation upon Witnessing a Bullfrog Fucking a Rock

Amalgam of electric jelly, 
constellated neural knots 
in the briny binary soup, 
as surely as stimulus prods response 
brains are made to choose. 
And through a major error in pattern recognition 
or a significant cognitive fault, 
the bullfrogs brain has selected 
a two-pound rock
as the object of his rampant affection, 
a rock (to my admittedly mammalian eye) 
that neither resembles
nor even vaguely suggests 
the female of his species.

He does seem to be enjoying himself 
in a blunted sort of way, 
but since the rock so obviously remains unmoved
one suspects it's not the blending of sweet oblivions 
that fuels his persistence, 
but a serious kink in a feedback loop-- 
or perhaps just kinkiness in general. 
The less compassionate might even call him 
the quintessentially insensitive male.

Assuming a pan-species gender bond 
and a common fret, 
I advise my amphibious pal, 
"Hey, I don't think she's playing hard to get.
That's the literal case you're up against, Jack--
true story, buddy; stone fact.
And I'd be fraternally remiss if I didn't share 
my deep and eminently reasonable doubt 
that she'll be worn down
however long and spectacular the ardor."

Ignoring my counsel
as completely as he has my presence,
the bullfrog continues his fruitless assault 
with that brain-locked commitment to folly
which invariably accompanies 
dumb, bug-eyed lust.

But, in fairness, 
whose brain hasn't shorted out in a slosh of hormones
or, igniting like a shattered jug of gas,
fireballed into a howling maelstrom 
where a rock indeed might seem a port? 
One can only conclude
that such impelling concupiscence
serves as a species' life-insurance, 
sort of a procreative override 
of any decision requiring thought, 
thought being notoriously prey to thinking, 
and the more one thinks about thinking 
the thinkier it gets.
Therefore, though the brain is made to choose, 
its very existence ultimately depends 
on the generative supremacy of brainless desire--
for with all respect to Monsieur Descartes 
you am before you can think you are. 
Dirt-drive compulsions riding powerful desires
render any choice moot, along with 
reason, morality, taste, manners, 
and all those other jars of glitter 
we pour on the sticky and raw.

The hard truth is we never chose to choose:
not the brains we use to pick
between competing explanations for our sexual mess
nor these hearts we've burdened with our blunders 
in the name of love.
Do whatever we decide we will, 
the choice isn't free;
we live at the mercy of more pressing needs.

Thus, urges urgently surging, 
we mount a few rocks by mistake.
A bit more embarrassing than most of our foolishness, true--
but so what?
The power of the imperative 
coupled with the law of averages 
virtually guarantees enough will get it right 
to make more brains to be made up 
about exactly what steps to take 
toward what we think we need to do 
on this stony journey between delusion and mirage--
when to move, where to hide our dreams-- 
a journey where we finally learn 
freedom is not a choice 
a brain is free to choose.

Fortunately, my warty friend,
the soul is built to cruise.