Poem of the week: Fishing with My Father by Eileen Casey

Eileen Casey. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Eileen Casey. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


We set off through the woods
dusk already breathing through the trees
we know their shape and scent. Oak whispers
to oak, ash to ash, guiding our path
towards the lake. A slow wind rises.
Father sings.

His voice is purply coloured. Deep and clotted
like blackcurrant jam and his song fills
all the empty spaces of this late summer’s evening.
I hum along with him.

At the shore, I flick my wrist, cast my line
out into rippling waters. As I’ve been taught
through father’s mime. But now it’s for real.
A real rod. Real water. Real fish.

Fireflies bat around our heads, midges
stirring near the surface coax brown trout
to the fattening feast.
I listen for sudden splashes, but father
is the first to feel the tell tale tug,
his body rigid as he reels in his wriggling catch.

Steel hooks glint through the gashed mouth,
rocks on the shore become a makeshift altar.
Father bludgeons his silver prize until
the writhing, at last, ceases.

Coming back through the woods
fish slimes my hands, fills my nostrils.
Darkness spreads like a stain. Drops its black caul
over the lake, across the jagged stones.
Our torches are barely a match for it.

My father again takes up his song
from where he left it in the trees.
I remain silent as we pass through

under the cold eye of the moon.

  • Eileen Casey has published three collections of poetry and a number of chapbooks. She received the Oliver Goldsmith Prize and a Katherine and Patrick Kavanagh Fellowship. She is editor of the forthcoming The Lea-Green Down, a response anthology to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, due out this year