‘Salmon eggs’. A poem by Ted Hughes


The salmon were just down there –

Shuddering together, caressing each other,

Emptying themselves for each other –

Now beneath flood-murmur

They curve away deathwards.

                                                          January haze,

With a veined yolk of sun. In bone-damp cold

I lean and watch the water, listening to water

Till my eyes forget me

And the piled flow supplants me, the mud blooms

All this ponderous light of everlasting

Collapsing away under its own weight

Mastodon ephemera

Mud-curdling, bull-dozing, hem-twinkling

Caesarean of heaven and earth, unfelt

With exhumations and delirious advents –


Wriggle at their mother’s abundance. The spider clings to his craft.

Something else is going on in the river

More vital than death – death here seems a superficiality

Of small scaly limbs, parasitical. More grave than life

Whose reflex jaws and famished crystals

Seem incidental

To this telling – these toilings of plasm –

The melt of mouthing silence, the charge of light

Dumb with immensity,

                                               The river goes on,

Sliding through its place, undergoing itself

In its wheel.

                             I make out the sunk foundations

Of burst crypts, a bedrock

Time-hewn, time-riven altar. And this is the liturgy

Of the earth’s tidings – harrowing, crowned – a travail

Of raptures and rendings.

                                                     Sanctus Sanctus

Swathes the blessed issue.

                                                     Perpetual mass

Of the waters

Wells from the cleft.

                                                    It is the raw vent

Of the nameless

Teeming inside atoms – and inside the haze

And inside the sun and inside the earth.

It is the font, brimming with touch and whisper,

Swaddling the egg.

                                      Only birth matters

Say the river’s whorls

                                     And the river

Silences everything in a leaf-mouldering hush

Where sun rolls bare, and earth rolls

And mind condenses on old haws.

Comments are closed.