Ballad for a young fisherman

Good morning. It is one, too - a good morning, that is. Not a cloud in the sky, no wind to ruffle the waters of the loch, hills arranged like the backs of a herd of palest blue elephants, between them mists of kicked-up dust ...

But for some reason I thought of a a painting featuring much wilder weather, one that I painted years and years ago when all four of our sons were heavily into commercial fishing. I thought to feature it here but for some reason .gif files are unacceptable to Mr Google. The painting depicts a small trawler that has come fast on the rocks close in to a harbour. Anyway, I'll content myself with the poem to go with it, one that I wrote in 2003. Hope you like it.

Ballad for a young fisherman

Caught up by the tide is the Jessie McBride with the rocks on her keelson now grating
And her anxious crew know not what to do and the seas nowhere near to abating,
But she’s built from old oak and there’s nothing too broke and it’s time is the answer, that’s clear
So hold on you men, she’ll float once again, soon be landing more fish on the pier.

There’ll be many a morn with the sky painted dawn and her wake a cream vee on a mirror,
When the seabirds call, there’s a fry up for all and you all have forgotten this terror
Skip’ll be at the wheel, you’ll be sharpening your steel ahead of the catch that’s to come
Yes, he’ll drink up his tea, wink, grin at the sea and sing to her engine’s sweet hum.

The fishing grounds reached, far from where she beached, your gear out and bumping the bottom,
The otter boards wide trawling into the tide and everything into slow motion,
You’ll wonder if God ever made things this good for folk who spend their lives ashore
Have never a chance to see sunlight dance with the ocean, know freedom, risk more.

Then one night in the pub with the loud hubbub and a pocket of notes if you’re lucky
There’s the girl with the eyes opened wide unsurprised when you eye her and ask the disc jockey
To play the old tune all about a blue moon, distant lights in some harbour aglow
Then you’ll be taking her home, swear not to roam - and one day she will not say no.

Bryan Islip
June 03

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