The Fish-Wife

By Cynthia Huntington b. 1951 Cynthia Huntington
I’ll take a bath when it snows,
when I can look out the window up high
and see the sky all pale
and blank like a fish’s eye.
And I know the boats won’t go out tonight,
the fishermen drinking whiskey, locked
in a bar-dream, the music rocking them deeper.
 
It doesn’t snow enough here,
though some would say otherwise,
fearing accidents. But the paper boy, skidding
uphill on his bike in light snow, knows better,
making S-tracks when his wheels slide sideways.
 
We really needed this snow, the old men will say,
putting to bed the surface roots of trees,
putting to bed the too-travelled streets.
 
When everything is covered
the earth has a light of its own;
the snow falls down from the moon
as everyone knows, and brings that light
back to us. I needed this light.
 
All day I kept by the window, watching the sky,
a prisoner in my clothes, the wind felt dry
and mean. Starlings stalked the yard with evil eyes
—I hated them, and hated, too, my neighbor’s house
where sparks from the chimney fell back in a stinking
cloud—black ashes bringing no blessing.
 
When the roads are covered,
when the water is black and snow falls
into the waves, the birds’ hunger swirls
the air, dark lovely shapes. All hungers
are equal now. I'll give them bread and seeds.
 
I have no money; the whiskey is gone,
and I must bathe in water. Fishermen, please
do not go out in your flimsy boats tonight
to chase after the cod and mackerel,
to hook the giant eels. Go safe,
go free. Let your feet leave trails
through streets and yards, wandering
home, your crooked voyages to bed.

Cynthia Huntington, “The Fish-Wife” from The Fish-Wife. Copyright © 1986 by Cynthia Huntington. Reprinted by permission of Cynthia Huntington.

Source: The Fish-Wife (University of Hawai'i Press, 1986)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Cynthia Huntington b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Life Choices, Time & Brevity, Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Weather, Winter

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Cynthia Huntington was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania. She earned a BA at Michigan State University and an MA from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.
 
Huntington’s free verse poems often examine the bare mind, restlessly turning the form of the individual against both built and natural environments, mapping both threat and respite against a shifting screen of personal memory. Introducing her early work in . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Time & Brevity, Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Weather, Winter

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.