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Oct 18 – YGTV Poetry Corner: Fish Salters

Every Tuesday, YGTV will share the work of local poets. We’ll post poems submitted to us in order to help writers get more exposure, feedback and criticism. If you write poems, please send them to us for consideration and include a profile pic: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our work today is by Jackie Anderson, a writer who has been very successful in local poetry and short story competitions. “Fish Salters” is a vivid picture of people engaged in the messy business of cutting and preparing fish. But the poem quickly moves its focus and brings to life the enchanted history and tales of a fishing village with its “demons” and “sirens.”


Fish Salters

They beat at the salt with their hands;

Broad hands, working hands

With skin brown and creased like toasted walnuts

And knotted with straining veins,

And they pull and pat and knife and slice,

Fingers scraping till they bleed,

At silver scales that stick

To the aprons they spread across their skirts;

Black and grey and dull brown cloth stretched across

Milk white thighs clamped closed

Until their fishermen sail home.


They sing their old songs while they

Split and they gut and they bone

The fish that flew today, that

Fell prey to that one wish

To soar through the blue where sky skims waves,

To feel the sun on their sea soaked skins

For just that once. Once was enough.

Now they flutter silently on lines

Stretched across the sand, split and salted,

Staring sightlessly at a bleached summer shoreline.


The fishwives sing and laugh, and chatter

About the old days when their mothers

Bustled at the huddle of homes

They made their own at the foot of a mountain

Where the sea flicked a serpentine tongue

At the curve of a bay,

And where their men beached their boats

And scoffed at the surf sirens

Who screamed their names out in storms,

And mocked the stone demons,

Who in the winter tempests hurled

Boulders from the mountaintops.


They sing and they clap and the

Old men knot their nets and beam their

Toothless grins at little girls

Who dance in the sand, hand in hand,

Skirts fluttering like coloured flags,

Like flying fish, one second in the sun.