Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SALT FISH, by BERTON BRALEY



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SALT FISH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Haddock and cod, mackerel, scrod
Last Line: And the scent of them wafts through space!
Subject(s): Fish & Fishing; Anglers


Haddock and cod, mackerel, scrod—
They lie in the market place
Salted and dried and side by side
And the scent of them wafts through space.

Salt, salt fish from the tumbling seas,
You give them a wry-faced glance;
For who would sniff in the smell of these
The savor of high Romance?

Yet ever the trawlers put to sea
Manned with their salt-cured crews
To take a wallop at Destiny,
Bucking with brain and thews
The roaring might of the combers white,
And the cold spume's stinging swish,
And reef and squall and the gray fog's pall
For the 'sake of a mess of fish!

The gambler plunges now and then
Risking his final chip,
But the tribe of deep-sea fishermen
Are betting their lives each trip.
They shove their stack into every pot
In a calm prosaic way
For risks are merely their daily lot
In the kind of a game they play.

They trawl in the lane where the liners swift
Come ripping and plunging through,
Far-spread, their tiny dories drift
Beyond the look-out's view;

Before the dawn and when day is gone
At their fishermen's work they keep.
—When the hold is full and for home they pull
Why, then they can get their sleep!

Reef and shoal take their heavy toll
For the fees of the seas are high,
And the fleet comes back on the homeward track
With part of its roster shy;
Comes back from a fight with the old gray sea
That Homer might well have sung;
Comes back with a load of fish, to be
Cheated and bilked and stung!

Deep-sea fish from the deep-sea trail
Stacked in a trawler's hold—
Ah, here's a gallant and pulsing tale,
A saga too seldom told
Of men who battle and sweat and freeze
And dice with the Great God Chance,
—Catching fish from the tumbling seas
Fish salt with the True Romance!

Haddock and cod, mackerel, scrod—
They lie in the market place
Salted and dried and side by side
And the scent of them wafts through space!





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