The Drunken Fisherman
Wallowing in this bloody sty, I cast for fish that pleased my eye (Truly Jehovah's bow suspends No pots of gold to weight its ends); Only the blood-mouthed rainbow trout Rose to my bait. They flopped about My canvas creel until the moth Corrupted its unstable cloth. A calendar to tell the day; A handkerchief to wave away The gnats; a couch unstuffed with storm Pouching a bottle in one arm; A whiskey bottle full of worms; And bedroom slacks: are these fit terms To mete the worm whose molten rage Boils in the belly of old age? Once fishing was a rabbit's foot-- O wind blow cold, O wind blow hot, Let suns stay in or suns step out: Life danced a jig on the sperm-whale's spout-- The fisher's fluent and obscene Catches kept his conscience clean. Children, the raging memory drools Over the glory of past pools. Now the hot river, ebbing, hauls Its bloody waters into holes; A grain of sand inside my shoe Mimics the moon that might undo Man and Creation too; remorse, Stinking, has puddled up its source; Here tantrums thrash to a whale's rage. This is the pot-hole of old age. Is there no way to cast my hook Out of this dynamited brook? The Fisher's sons must cast about When shallow waters peter out. I will catch Christ with a greased worm, And when the Prince of Darkness stalks My bloodstream to its Stygian term . . . On water the Man-Fisher walks.
From Selected Poems by Robert Lowell, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1976, 1977 by Robert Lowell. Used by permission.
Robert Lowell's poetry collection Life Studies is considered by many to have changed the landscape of modern poetry.
Date Published: 1976-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/drunken-fisherman