Poem: Moving Fish

street-1209401_1280.jpgLately I’ve been focused on the publication of my first novel, but today I want to share something different, so here is a poem for a change.

I have a strange memory of the day we donated our tropical fish to the local primary school. My mother sent my sister and me out to walk to the school with the fish in a plastic bag of water. It was a winter’s day with deep snow on the roads and she didn’t want the fish to freeze, so she gave me her shawl to wrap up the bag.

When I remembered this day, it struck me that it’s a picture of what we often want to do for the people we care about: to protect them from the outside world as we carry them to the next fishtank. But character can be built on experiencing life’s raw confusion. And I decided to write something about this dilemma.

Moving Fish

You’ve been running

every errand you were offered

every gauntlet thrown down

with other people’s songs in your head

Ukeleles and daisy chains

polka dot skirts on summer’s days

Because the backing track that set up home in there

Runs a sardonic narration

that makes you squirm with shame

like a grub on a bait-hook

there’s a voice that will do anything

to distract you from spotting the treasure that’s in you

I saw that. We all did.

You’ve got the scars now

which will heal, if you let them

And I’m proud of you, for the times you fought back

I’d have fought it for you, if I could

I long sometimes for my mother’s shawl

when I wrapped its folds of purple plaid round the bag

filled with the last of the anxious, flitting tropical fish

and carried them through the icy streets to their new home

in the local school

for more days in a neon-lit tank

I could wish I had it now

to gather you all up

and convey you to the next milestone

but a clear path’s not the thing to wish for

When it’s the diamond-cut life lessons

that will make you shine

I want to see you fearless

and unstoppable

against all the reasons you should settle for the same world

that wanted you scared

When you know the precious fabric of your soul

Is not for sale, and take a stand

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