At the Source

marea roja by ladyorlando

At the Source

On the shady side of Horn Mountain,
round the first bend of Bonaparte Creek,
a bearded trout tells fairy tales to a cluster
of wavery eggs, his voice of water
on pebbles lulls the brood in their gravel bed.

As angry Bass flicks his tail upstream,
the eggs quiver in their sacs,
but Bearded Trout’s eye looms larger
than the moon – “stay mum,” he bubbles,
“or Bass will purse his lips, suck you in,”

“and you will be like the Sleeping Faerie
entangled in strands of Spanish moss,
dragged through currents, over slimy rocks
from foothills to the sea, never to breath
clay-tinged waters again.”

The glistening eggs quiet in the cold
currents, listening to Bearded Trout
speak of their hatching day, small
fry loose on eddies, drinking air,
aware of shadows near dappled stones.


This poem is a result of thinking about the above painting, some words describing the landscape of the foothills where I live, and Michelle McGrane’s contribution to the collaborative link at Read Write Poem, Diving into the Wreck, by Adrienne Rich. Thanks for an interesting collaboration, Nathan.

I think this is a children’s poem, but I’m not sure. Would the part about thinking eggs be too scary or obscure for children? Or the Angry Bass?

20 thoughts on “At the Source

  1. dale says:

    I don’t think too scary or too obscure for children. Not in general. It’s hard to guess, I’ve found, what will be too scary, and it varies wildly from child to child, from noon to evening, from summer to winter. But anyway, I think this is absolutely terrific. *I’m* scared of that bass, I know that.

    I love

    never to breath
    clay-tinged waters again

    especially, but the whole thing just rolls out like something classic and inevitable.


  2. Lirone says:

    Lovely feel to this… age old rather than newly written! Have you ever read “The Stream that Stood Still” – a lovely children’s story where the Pike has very much the same character as the Bass here.


  3. Carole says:

    As I read it, I thought it would make a good poem for children. As a timid child, I was always ambivalent about scary things. I was drawn to them and wanted to cover my eyes or run away all at the same time. Loved the images.


  4. rob kistner says:

    This was wonderful Christine… 😉

    Have you ever read Grimm’s Fairy Tales? They’d make great screenplays for horror movies — so I think children would be fine with this piece you’ve written so well. 😉



  5. Jo says:

    You did such a good job here…….it’s beautifully put together, flows just like the waters they’re in and I think it suits adults and children equally well.


  6. Michelle says:

    And what an adventure the small fry are going to have! Can we have a sequel please?

    C, I remember loving Charles Kingsley’s “The Water-Babies” as a child although there were parts of the book that terrified me. If you have a look at the link, you’ll see two of the illustrations from the original book. The thrill of the shudder! You can imagine …,_A_Fairy_Tale_for_a_Land_Baby

    I don’t want to meet Bass in a coral cave.

    So enjoyed reading this.


  7. carolee says:

    christine — i love this piece. something for grown-ups and something for kids. the grown-ups tend to understand the deeper symbolism as they read it to the kids. the kids gravitate to the story, to the adventure. and it works.

    i don’t worry about scaring children. (good mom, right?) i think they’re exposed to so much as it is that anything concentrated and meaningful and interpretive is an excellent chance for dialog. too many people pretend that in order to protect kids you have to keep them from being afraid. i prefer to think they’re going to get a little bit afraid no matter what — and then we have a chance to offer comfort and teach them how to cope and be larger than angry Bass.

    but i’m all philosophical at the moment. carry on. 🙂


  8. Julie says:

    YES! Kids will LOVE this poem! It is fantasy, imagination, story…everything that is in a child’s mind (and believe me, I still have a child’s mind). Carole hit the nail on the head with her comment. Even timid children will be drawn to it. I loved ghost stories as a kid, even when I was terrified. And it is also a wonderful way to get them away from the stupid box (television) or the stupid telephone, video games, and all that other crap that dulls minds. You should read it at a library or school! Christine, this is fantastic.


  9. christine says:

    Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. I’ll definitely follow up on the leads you’ve given me. Since I’ve raised my two boys I’ve fallen in love with fairy tales, fantasy, and adventures, as well as the oral tradition.

    Julie, you are always welcome at this blog! I bet you give great hugs.


  10. Holly D says:

    Christine, I teach Children’s Lit, and that makes me no expert, but I can tell you kids like scary stuff anyway, and as far as obscure, even better!! I really enjoyed going to that place…it reminds me of the Octopus’s Garden!


  11. Holly D says:

    ps…sorry I’ve been so lame…I’ve been trying desperately to get out of “work mode” and had a friend visit for a couple of days, which helped…this poem helped too!1
    pss…I love my little cartoon uni-lobster-heart…it feels right!


  12. suburbanlife says:

    I think children can embrace talking eggs and it would allow themselves to stretch their minds to unravel the mystery of allusion. We tend to soften things too much for children and exploring danger and fear is something they should have a chance to discuss and wonder about.
    This poem has the caution from an older entity which the young dismiss at their peril, therefore it is a worthy piece to read to children. I loved being able to “hear” the underwater, magical conversation. G


  13. Joyce Ellen Davis says:

    I love this! I think kids will love it, too! Sort of “Will you walk a little faster,” said the whiting to the snail. “There’s a porpoise close behind us and he’s treading on my tail….” or the Puffin poem, where he eats “little fishes,” at the first of the poem but ends up “eating pancakes, like you and like me.”

    Fun poem!


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