when we are fishing

by Michaela Keeble

when you are fishing
The author’s partner and son (photo supplied by the author).

when you are fishing

when you are fishing
you are thinking about fish
how to catch them
how your ancestors caught them

you are thinking
that the trawlers’ take is criminal
that the Sealords deal was a crock

you are thinking about
how you’ll clean and cook
the fish that you catch

one or more lines have bites
or need bait or new rigs

there’s so much to think about

when I am fishing

when I am fishing
I am thinking about books
written about fishing

words switch to life around us
fishing grounds and fishing tricks
men who left shore

at three in the morning
and returned on the wind
to share the catch

I too am thinking
of your grandfathers
how they caught tarakihi: fluently

all the references here are Māori

and I’m the only

non-Māori on the boat

we are fishing when the weather turns

and to ward off the risk
I talk quietly to our son
“there’s Mana, named by Kupe

there’s Wairaka, turned to stone
by Hau, and now we’re halfway
between Haukōpua and Hongoeka

over there is Whitireia
can you see the wharenui?
yes, we’re close

can you see Aunty Kohai’s?
can you see the roof at Nana’s?
can you see the kāhu

hunting for rats on the hill?
he comes from Australia
we come from Australia

like the magpie
like the tauhou
like that kite,” I say

I should keep my mouth shut
but I’m seasick
and I need to talk

our boy needs to talk
and he needs to be told
and in this nerve-wracking swell

I have no other
to tell

is it always cowardly to steal?
is it cowardly to want
to return to shore?

Michaela Keeble is an Australian writer living in Aotearoa with her partner and three kids. She mainly writes press releases about climate change, but her poetry and fiction are also published online and in print, including in Plumwood Mountain, Westerly, Not Very Quiet, Southerly, Pantograph Punch and Capital. She gets badly seasick, so has to settle for writing poems about fishing instead of actually fishing.