Fish Time – Suzanne McArdle


Fish Time

When Africa was ice

in meltwater seas

boneless toothless


split from shale

the old one’s flattened eye

surprised and preserved mid-swim.


Before feet

new-boned warships dredged silt.

Devonian gills stiffened to jaws


bones sharpened

to fangs

fish fitted every water-place.




In river floods

Xia Dynasty carp

kettled in lakes and ponds


fattened on nymphs

from the silkworm farm,

eaten, bred and spun to gold.


Koi glossed orange,

white and black.

Thousands spawn


the ragged-finned

the blemished-skinned

fed to Dragon Fish to fire up scales.




North Sea fish

hang like crotchets

on staves of nets.


Haddock and plaice

sorted, weighed

tossed back alive and dead.






Under fluorescent lights

on rain-dark nights

girls dangle white legs in foot-level tanks.


Oil-black Garra Rufa

swirl pale limbs

nibble dead skin


In Japanese


sounds like love.


Take this tancho,

strung on pearls,

feel her pumping heart


in water

she could live

two hundred years.