The Hook

By Theodore Weiss 1916–2003 Theodore Weiss

The students, lost in raucousness,   
caught as by the elder Breughel’s eye,   
we sit in the college store
over sandwiches and coffee, wondering.   
She answers eagerly: the place was fine;   
sometimes the winds grew very cold,   
the snows so deep and wide she lost   
sight of people. Yes, she was well   
satisfied with her work, expected—
while the quarry’s owner was away—
to do another year of it.


She is hammering. I hear
the steady sound inside our dry,   
noisy days. Sparks fly; the mind,   
so taken, mighty for a moment,   
becomes quarry and sculptor both,   
something caught like love and war   
in this golden mesh: and daring   
caught that flings like sparks girls   
and boys, flagrant cities prompt   
to daring’s will, love and war   
its burly seconds.


I see again three kids we passed,   
three kids lounging at the edge
of a forsaken quarry like something   
they had built; in its sleepy pool
they found the whiteness of their bodies,
the excitement like parian marble.


Such the waters we find ourselves
in. We sit in the college store absorbed   
in food and talk. Eagerness seizes us   
like love that leaves its best sailors   
in the mighty waves, love the word
for hook whose catching, and the struggle   
there, is one great musical clash
of minds—each wave a passion and a mind—
a possessed, tumultuous monument   
that would be free.


                                           We strain forward
as to some fabulous story. Incandescence   
springs from her, the hammer of remembrance   
fresh, the young woman, bulky graceful body,   
face shining, who sculptured all winter
alone near the source of her rock,
digging down into the difficult rock:

the young woman who lost a day once,   
talked to her cat, and when the mirror
of her art became too clear, when dreaming   
seemed too big for night alone, took long
walks back to people, back to speech,
and time:
             the woman, who at last—
“I do not use live models”—sculptured fish—
“I remember long lonely holidays at shores   
when the spray alone defined green shapes   
approaching”—has just seen (her eyes
still gleam with the gleam of it,
blink like the making of many
a take) a great catch.


                                                   April, we say,
is the time for fish, for reaching   
in its sea-like waftings one
of earth’s original conclusions
like the leftover gill slits
the singing student told us about
in this very spot just two days ago . . .

we are in the middle of a great catch,   
there collected as from her year-long   
lonely rock, the thrashing, clean-
scaled, clear-lit shad in the net.

Theodore Weiss, “The Hook” from Selected Poems, published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Theodore Weiss. All rights reserved; reprinted with the permission of Northwestern University Press,

Source: Poetry (November 1949).


This poem originally appeared in the November 1949 issue of Poetry magazine

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November 1949
 Theodore  Weiss


For the body of his work, poet Theodore Weiss was recognized with the 1997 Oscar Williams-Gene Derwood Award of the New York Community. "Coming to New York in 1938 from a town in Pennsylvania to study literature at Columbia University released in me a spate of what I then believed to be poetry," Weiss wrote in an essay for Poets on Poetry. He described his "rapidly growing admiration for Homer" and eventual attraction to the . . .

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SUBJECT Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences, School & Learning, Activities

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