Told one of the goldfish wouldn’t last the night…

Told one of the goldfish wouldn’t last the night

He hid his eyes under a fierce scowl

And went outside on the flags and rode his bike

Round and round, round and round


But it did no good and he brought the fact back in

Heading for his bedroom and his secret stash of chocolate

But his mother got under his scowl and halted him

Till he showed her his eyes and that was that.


So much sorrow there is in a not-quite-five-year-old

They know so much already and suspect the rest

Already they are beyond being consoled

They watch, they have seen it signed and witnessed


That all living creatures have one thing in common:

They die. Creatures as intricate and various

As a worm, a swallow, a cat, a water-scorpion

Baby and grown-up, all of them, all of us


Die. So when in her arms her child became a well

And the waters of sorrow that are under the earth broke through

For a golden fish she was inconsolable

Grieving that his grief was right, just, true.


from Nine Fathom Deep (Bloodaxe, 2009), © David Constantine 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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