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Two Fish

Summer blows through the Zuider Zee

surging waves against dykes when tides run,

shifting sands shaping shallow lands

behind the Frisian isles and cold North Sea.

Now by day the windmills are stilled

in once fields of flowers

and starry nights of painted visions

(That shone from the eyes of a haunted man) 

the only light upon the strand

now taken from the sea.

A day when two bright shiny things,

once also below the waves, 

jump like flying fish

out of a canal near a dyke-

Barbed wire and tanks in Polderland.

The boy in the panama with gangly legs

dreams of a lucky find.

No food for days for the two of them

with a bundle of bowl, a knife and spoon,

fleeing the town and not looking back,

just gone astray,

keeping out of sight.


“I was lying by the water’s edge,

Half asleep with only the insects.

I heard this splash and saw the flash 

of a fish that jumped

right out of the water

and close to me.

It jumped I swear,

beside another already there,

without wings so it must have jumped.

Fish do jump sometimes don’t they?

It must have followed its friend

onto the grass.


The fish jumped again when I touched it.

I thought it dead, but it seemed alive,

a silver flashing slippery thing

wriggling in panic

and gasping in air.” 




And that’s what happened that hot afternoon

as he lay dreaming on the river bank.

Two fish from God lay within his reach.

 Oh how hard they had prayed for food.


She had prayed with hands like fists 

and eyes clenched teary tight

For she knew God would find a way,

If she could send the prayer ok 


One bowl, a spoon, knife and fire.

Cut and gutted with the bones removed,

two fish stuck with a stick beside the coals,

in a burnt out shell struck huis.


My sister will not starve, she will not die,

I promised Moedertij on the Talmud that day

before the men in black came back

And stole mother’s life away.


So now little Anika and I,

with our bundle of bowl, knife and spoon

and proud Pappa’s panama hat,

jump like fish from place to place.


Two live slippery kids.

Fish out of water.

Wriggling in panic 

and gasping for air.


A poem by Richard Parkinson as part of a collaboration with John Mutsaers.

Copyright and all rights of publication and/or use reserved by the author.


About the author

Richard Parkinson. Born 1949. UK origins. 

Lived Nungurner on the Gippsland Lakes in East Gippsland for 12 years. Builder, guitar maker, wood carver/sculptor, sailor, writer, ex teacher. Recently married. Self-published five books of poetry in the last five years. Son of an artist, husband to an artist and father of two artists.

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