Codling and flounder

A new poem by Kathleen Jamie. 

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the fishermen reply, baiting their hooks
by the pier behind the shopping mall.
“They arrive on the surge when the dock gates open,
but we throw ‘em back.” At the oil-berth,
deckhands prep the Apache II,
a red-hulled pipe-layer. Maybe it’ll sail soon
watched from the mall by shoppers eating pizza.
“Aye,” mourn the fishermen, “all used to be shipyards here…”
And before the shipyards? Salt-marsh, dunes…
But there’s cormorants on the breakwater,
backs turned, wings raised, attuned
– or so I used to fancy – to summonses pelagic,
too wild for human sense. I don’t think that now.
East of Aberdeen another gas-field’s been discovered
but last month, guess what: humpbacks!
Three! Feeding in the outer firth…
“Good luck!” I say, ostensibly to the fishermen,
but secretly I’m speaking to the fish. “Flounders”
I whisper “conceal yourselves
under the green liquid deadweight
of the moon – and codling, don’t be kettled here,
this sullen square kilometre of dock. Try to
sliver out alongside when the next ship sails.
Just go. Avoid whales. Stravaig the seven oceans as you grow.

Kathleen Jamie’s Selected Poems is published by Picador.

This article appears in the 13 December 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special

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