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As Well as They Can -- A D Hope

William Grey sends this in as a followup of sorts to
yesterday's poem...
(Poem #1620) As Well as They Can
 As well as it can, the hooked fish while it dies,
 Gasping for life, threshing in terror and pain,
 Its torn mouth parched, grit in its delicate eyes,
             Thinks of its pool again.

 As well as he can, the poet, blind, betrayed
 Distracted by the groaning mill, among
 The jostle of slaves, the clatter, the lash of trade,
             Taps the pure source of song.

 As well as I can, my heart in this bleak air,
 The empty days, the waste nights since you went,
 Recalls your warmth, your smile, the grace and stir
             That were its element.
-- A D Hope
An offering for this year's Valentine's Day romantic anniversary by Australian
poet A.D. Hope (1907-2000). Somewhere Hope reported witnessing the death of a
fish -- I think it was when he was a young man in Tasmania. The memory of grit
of sand in the fish's dying eye long haunted him and provided the focal image
for this poem, composed more than forty years later. The blind and betrayed man
struggling with the groaning mill (I think) is an allusion to the biblical
story of Samson. The three stanzas of this subtle, poignant and profound
triptych resonate to perfection. "Human speech", Flaubert famously said (in
Madame Bovary), "is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for
bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars."
Flaubert was able to achieve stellar meltdown. So too was Hope.

The poem was published in A.D. Hope, New Poems 1965-69 (Sydney: Angus &
Robertson, 1969), p. 52.

William Grey

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