The Sounds of Fish

Jan 11, 2019

Today’s poem is “The Sounds of Fish” by Michelle M. Faith. She is a retired editor and teacher who moved to Camden several years ago after many years on Boston’s North Shore. Her poetry has been published in Art New England, U.S. Catholic, Goose River Anthology, Sandy River Review, and other publications. 

She writes, “My poetry is often inspired by PBS science programs and newspaper articles. I am particularly fascinated by our 21st-century ability to attune to sounds we could never hear before modern audio technology.”

The Sounds of Fish
by Michelle M. Faith

Shouldn’t we have known—
having heard for many years
the intricate songs of whales—
that fish, too, make sounds?

One species drums, another
croaks like a frog. Shrimp crackle
like Saran wrap crumpled,
the spotted sea trout maintains
an entire repertoire—heartbeats,
creaking doors—and the silver perch
clucks like a chicken. Really.

Through instruments lowered
into their private sea, we eavesdrop,
and fishers claim they hear strange voices
beneath the hulls of boats.

We assume they are the mating calls
of male to female, though that
may be our failure to imagine
that fish might speak of things
beyond our ken—beyond
last night’s dinner or yesterday’s
gossip or tomorrow’s storm.

But come with me to the dark water
on a clear, moonlit night.
Listen attentively to one
creature calling another
of its kind. What do you
hear? What do you hear? 

Poem copyright © 2003 Michelle M. Faith. Reprinted from Eureka Literary Magazine, 2003, by permission of Michelle M. Faith.