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Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Pike - Theodore Roethke

The river turns,
Leaving a place for the eye to rest,
A furred, a rocky pool,
A bottom of water.

The crabs tilt and eat, leisurely,
And the small fish lie, without shadow, motionless,
Or drift lazily in and out of the weeds.
The bottom-stones shimmer back their irregular striations,
And the half-sunken branch bends away from the gazer's eye.

A scene for the self to abjure!-
And I lean, almost into the water,
My eye always beyond the surface reflection;
I lean, and love these manifold shapes,
Until, out from a dark cove,
From beyond the end of a mossy log,
With one sinuous ripple, then a rush,
A thrashing-up of the whole pool
The pike strikes.


I was fortunate enough to receive a collection of poems about fish as a gift, and this is one fairly well known poem from the collection.  The language of this poem captures the majesty and power of the fish as a creature, which I like.  Many poems focus on the observer, or the fisher, which is perfectly fine, but it is refreshing to enjoy a poem that savors the fish instead of savoring the fishing only.

From my personal experience, the pike is every bit as beautiful and savage as this poem makes it out to be.  Dormant, almost inert, until suddenly, action, and their sharp teeth find their mark.  They thrash, killing the victim with beautiful efficiency.  Absolutely wonderful.

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