The Keeper of Tropical Fish

Home late, the autumn city sun
weak and slanting on the tank
catches your eye and cheers you
with the glinting captive rainbows.
Later, tears echoing in the silent house,
you set all lights except the tank’s
and lose your thoughts and time
in that warm green-stranded world
where tiny prismatic distant lives
weave patterns of search and love.

The tank will stand by another wall
and greet you in the same weathers
ten years later: a cityboy still in country,
more familiar with these familiar lives
than the strange nightsounds and whispers,
you slump in the tired chair near the heater:
the windows cry making ready for morning rain
while you tenderly watch their graces in the water
grazing and kissing, after the truces of silence
wondering helplessly what made it
as it is from what it was hoped to be.

And now: the tank is larger, with new lives
brighter but less loved: their unfamiliar darting
like your own strange tracks of heart
in these your autumn years.

15 June 64   
for my father