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.