A fisher-boy's life - seventh and final part



 A fisher-boy’s life’ - seventh and final part.

At fourteen years and nine long months,
I said goodbye with the smallest sigh
to school and Abingdon, town and gown,
daddy unable (unwilling?) to spend more
on his angst-tied dreamer of an only son
and I can’t blame him for this or that, or
for my shy head filled with fishing lore
in spite of those surprisingly high marks
and a certainty for Oxford, said the Head
to father - of course after I had been shed.

I remember not much of what came next
(‘til Boots then the air force in fifty one),
but one frosty morning out on my bike
rod to the crossbar, tackle bag bumping
my back, excited, cycling flatland lanes
over miles of fenland to try for a pike,
double-treble hook, live dace for bait …
float steady mid-canal I wait and I wait
yet still I'm surprised by the run, so
I snatch the strike, back up the bank,
nervous of what was unseen on the line,
dangerous, matching its power to mine.
I can’t believe what I haul from the water
- lethal weapon of piscatorial slaughter,
dappled green, lean, with underslung jaw
bait half gorged deep down the pink maw
white rows of raked-back razor teeth!
with shaking hands my knife I unsheathe.

I hang him, dead, from my handlebars,
for twenty odd miles I cycle him home
and once I fell and saw plenty of stars
when he got into the front wheel spokes
and my bloody elbows were no joke
and why oh why was I the only one
who thought he was a thing of wonder
so little moved were they, that day and
‘Take it away, I'm not cooking that,’
she said; ‘Another of Bryan’s for the cat.’

Bryan Islip
Seventh and final part of  ‘A fisher-boy’s life’ : June 2014

P.S. These are, as I remember, the first lines of a hymn (or song?) that we used to sing in Abingdon (Roysses’s) School chapel at Sunday Evensong …

When to the days of our childhood returning,
Backwards our footsteps will wander afar;
Strong be our love and long be our yearning,
When we remember the days that are gone

… and now finally … (1 Corinthians 13:11) When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I gave up childish things.        (Bryan’s addendum: Except fishing)

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