Chinese Poem, after Mark Ford

John Tranter

Christmas, Grandad came down from the mountains,
and we had to go fishing, on the ornamental lake.
The ornery mental lake, that’s what I call it.
‘Do I have to, Pop? It’s just
animal death!’ Fishing,
fishing, till everything is killed.

‘How’s the love-life?’ Grandad asked.
My father was having trouble, some affair
that was going wrong. He shook his head.
‘That’s your karma,’ Grandad opined,
‘and moving house, that makes it worse.’
The waves rocked the boat, and it began to rain.
Grandad pulled on a pullover covered with marbled
patterns to resemble the surface of the water.

‘Do you smoke dope? Never mind,’ he said,
and popped a pill. ‘Ahhh ... that’s better. Here’s the trick:
you kill fish by not caring. But an old man
can only speak for himself.’