Monday, September 20, 2010

Aquarium Imaginarium

Aquarium Imaginarium

Symbolic meanings of fish

  • fertility
  • eternity
  • creativity
  • femininity
  • good luck
  • happiness
  • knowledge
  • wisdom
  • transformation

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels--until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

-- Elizabeth Bishop --


I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

-- Sylvia Plath --

I remember wishing I were a fish...



rauf said...

yessum yessum lookum likum fisshum.
gooddum imaginarium.
poetryum me no understandum.

Ruth said...

Laughing at rauf.

The Bishop poem is probably my favorite. Ever. I think you know I named my cat after her.

I hadn't seen the fish in your photograph at Flickr when I saw it there.

The last image is wonderful. What is it/are they?

Of course there's the symbol of the fish for Christianity too. Have to mention it, since it's what I came out of. I guess it came from being fishers of men, and the disciples were fishermen. I didn't know all those other symbolic meanings.

You wished you were a fish. I wished I was a bird.

João said...

Beautiful, Claudia...I also have a thing for fishes.

Trulyfool said...


That Plath poem devastates me. How she connects the images to make the larger 'picture', how she translates the objective fish into a symbol of what might be her and then a symbol of that which looks at her.

Chilling. Lonely.

Claudia said...

Oh, rauf, your comment is one of my favourites ever! Trust you to put me in a good, down-to-earth mood.

Claudia said...

Ruth, yes I did remember that you named Bishop after Elizabeth Bishop! I didn't know that this Fish, full of meaning and symbolism was your favourite poem of hers. I found myself reading it over and over and marveling over its depth for quite a while yesterday.

That last photo is of bubbles inside a transparent acrylic paper weight. Part of a series of photos I took in 2006/2007 (it's in my Claudia1967 Flickr account). I'm glad you like it.

Claudia said...

Thank you,João. How nice to have you commenting on my blog again.

Claudia said...


Chilling and lonely The Mirror may be, but it isn't as devastating as the poem written by Plath that I am going to publish here on Thursday.

Only one small dose of Plath at a time.

rauf said...

oh deeah ! this is getting ridiculous. i am scared of word verification now. The word veryfication i have to type is WIFYI

This is strange because i rarely or never use my laptop and the wifi. Had to use it now as my desktop suddenly decided to shut down by itself. It is not coming on. Now i remember what i wrote in Ruth's synchronicity post. Good that i took a screen shot of this verification. i'll mail you the picture.

why am i writing this comment ? oh yes yes
i went Flickr, oh deeah ! you are very popular there. my eyes went wide. This is not why i am writing this comment.

There is an ADD ON in firefox where you have to point your mouse to get a zoom of the thumbnail without clicking. But i am I AM clicking on your pictures.

You have to go to Tools( firefox) click on Add ons then click 'Get add ons'. you get a list and you can search for 'image zoom' 0.4.4

And there is another add on called screen grab. after installing you get a small icon on the bottom right of the page. click on it. it saves the entire post with comments as an image file.

This is not complicated. Remember one thing Claudia, if rauf can do it any monkey can do it

rauf said...

No no, The add on is called 'Thumbnail Zoom' Not image zoom. Sorry. it works everywhere even on Facebook.

i will never never send you a screen shot of this verification. the word resembles women's problem. but i am not a woman.

Claudia said...

I get a kick out of word verification, sometimes the words are in complete agreement with the post, the comment or what's happening around you, which is funny in a creepy sort of way.

I used to be really popular in Flickr 3 years ago, rauf. I stopped using the Claudia1967 account when the whole Flickr experience got to be more about popularity and less about photography. I started the AiDualC account then, don't play the popularity game anymore.

Thanks for the add on. I'll try to find it and set it up, alas I'm not as clever as any monkey, rauf.