I had a jar of sticklebacks

I’d netted down amongst the weed.

I sat and watched as they watched me,

Our stillness shared for forty years.


With azure, scarlet, silver sides,

Eclipsed the joy of my field guides.

The book I’d read on every night

Would now be left to prop a pile.


The jar contained the living truth –

The eyes, the spines and fragile tails –

I’d felt them wriggle on my palm,

Their life as real as mine was dry.


I watched them breathe through gaping mouths.

I watched them stop, grow dull and die.



3 Comments to “Sticklebacks”

  1. Not being familiar with sticklebacks, I looked them up. They’re fish?
    “The stickleback male is a fantastic father. After attracting an egg-laying female to a nest with a zig-zag courtship dance and bright red colourings, he fans the fertilised eggs with his fins to provide oxygen. Once the eggs have hatched he protects the small fry and teaches them self-defence from predators by chasing them.” ….

  2. they are indeed – small (mainly) freshwater fish. Like most kids I was fascinated with water, rivers, streams, fish and “creepy crawlies”, and once caught some and kept them in a jar. I don’t actually remember any dying, although some probably did. The idea was to use that childhood “look back” to act as some kind of prop for passing, aging and the associated loss(es). Hope you liked it.

    • In truth, I was a little confused by the metaphor… the last two lines a bit of a Gothic experiment! It did make me remember the time I cut out a dead carp’s eyes while on a camping trip. I brought them home in a jar, hiding them in our garage so I could watch them…then totally forgetting about them until the whole neighborhood searched for the horrible smell. Ha! So thanks, yes, I did like it….your poem was definitely evocative!

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