Against the current

Sea trout

Rain running off the drowned fields
Has made a frothing mocha
Of the Ouse. And now
The sea-trout make their run
Up against the current to the redds:

Now, when the river’s hurling
Furious tons of turbid water
Down the weir’s ten-foot flight
Of slimed stone steps
As if enraged at its own flood-borne filth.

The desperate thrash and wriggle
Straight up the middle;
The sly move along the side;
The breathless moment balanced
On the fish-ladder’s lowest concrete rung

Then the current’s casual fling
Back into the churning foam
Spinning, glinting like silver coins
Flipped in the conjuror’s fingers:
Heads I win, tails you lose.

Chilled through, still we watch and wait
In breathless hope, willing just one
Of these bold travellers
To cheat the elemental forces
Ranged against them:

Our Sunday stroll recast
By this raw instinct
And our own struggles
Rendered small and senseless
By this untutored will.

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14 thoughts on “Against the current

  1. What do I like about this poem? Other than everything, that is. First, it is uncommonly beautiful in its language:
    “Then the current’s casual fling
    Back into the churning foam
    Spinning, glinting like silver coins
    Flipped in the conjuror’s fingers:”.
    Second, it takes the everyday, a Sunday stroll, and casts it into a life story that contains a lesson and a balance all of us ought to know, but do not always manage.
    In nature sea trout have to struggle mightily up fish ladders “when the river’s hurling
    Furious tons of turbid water
    Down the weir’s ten-foot flight
    Of slimed stone steps”.
    Third, its form is handled with the skill and grace of a master, as usual.
    What a poet you are, Nick Moore.

  2. What a wonderful poem,

    Captivating imagery –
    “a frothing mocha
    Of the Ouse.” – just one example.

    A story that drew me right in to stand beside you and a summing up that made me too stop and ponder.

    I think this is one of your very best Nick

    David

    • Thank you, David – this is the first year I’ve managed to get my timing right and actually be there when the trout are coming upriver; it was a captivating and rather moving sight. I’m pleased to have done them justice here.

  3. This is one of your best, Nick. The description is perceptive, accurate – spot-on! – with all the right details from nature, an occasional image, and then that human comparison to conclude. I note especially “frothing mocha”, “turbid water”, and “untutored will”. Congratulations!

    • Thank you, John – as always, I take great heart from your comments. Usually I write things more or less ‘straight off’, but this one took me the best part of a week, which I think was apt: it was a hard struggle (hence the title) that reflected, in some small way, the travails of the fish themselves. Really pleased you approve of the result!

    • Hi Ina – good to hear from you. Sorry I haven’t been to visit you for a while; I feel like a trout battling against a river of work at the moment! Will be over to your blog very soon, I promise. I’m glad you liked the poem – and you’re right, ‘trout’ is both the singular and the plural, like ‘sheep’ (and, indeed, ‘fish’!) N.

  4. Hi Nick,

    I’m rendered speechless by this poem. I would like to say something eloquent about how beautiful it is, but words fail me. I was captured by the scene from the first stanza and duly humbled by your words and the trout’s migration in your closing lines.
    Just stunningly beautiful!

    Tikarma.xx

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