Poetry: Pike | clivejames.com
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Teriyaki tigering the golden
deep fried flesh and a flask of hot sake
fuming like a factory chimney.

This china smoke stack takes me back
to failing mills and Warcar Reservoir:
the stagnant pond that used to juice them

before profit migrated East to the land
of synthetics, cheap worsted, cheaper labour.
The summer of Jaws and tucked up legs,

invented verrucas, sliding Sunday nights
down the gullet of the weekend bath:
feeling like Quint kicking at teeth, puking blood.

Pike were our local great whites but we had
no pike nets, pike repellent, strychnine jabs,
no Police Chief or ichthyologist.

We had hunks of drystone wall, giant bobbins,
window gaffs, rafts of unhinged doors,
to protect us from the monstrous fish

that Ted Hughes himself might have reared
and delivered overnight on the back
of a flat-bed lorry.

We knew the tale of the kid who dived
onto a rusting Cortina,
swam to the cobbles and bound up

his intestines in a pinkening towel
and almost made it home. But we knew
the pike had done it, though we watched

the council land the dribbling chassis
with a crane. We dared ourselves
back into the green water,

rafting down the overflow when it rained,
stooping under child-sized Niagaras,
leaping from the millstone-gritty walls.

I never saw a pike in the res
or in a keepnet and now I have one
in a dish, spit-roasted on a skewer,

I’m sorry for its cooked-blind eyes,
seared-off fins, flaking muscle.
I take it apart with chopsticks.