Astringency by Ted Hughes

Astringency // Ted Hughes

I always think of the Charles River
Frozen. The word ‘Astringency’
Was the cant for years.
Slackly I strolled there. A big event:
A million dead worms
Littering the lawny grass along the walkway.
Modern times had caught them up
And overtaken. String ends
Too short to be saved. The cindery air,
A waft of roasted iron, blew from Cambridge.
‘Lit Crit,’ my friend said, ‘and Agrochemicals
Are Siamese twins.’ What? Were you with me
When I saw an amazing thing,
Right there at the edge of the Charles?
A fisherman, hoping for God knows what,
Had just caught a goldfish.
Out of that brown mass, from under
The hundred miles and the thousand false faces
Of the Charles River
That I had assumed 100 per cent proof toxic.
A goldfish! Thick, deep and very frisky.
Nine inches long – obviously thriving.
Somebody’s apartment darling – flushed?
But caught again! Brainstorm of the odds!
He let it go. It swam off.
It dissolved in the murk. That same spot
We – you and me – watched small, ranked waves
Washing over a nipple of rock at the edge there.

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