Tuesday Poem – ‘Tea, fish and the sea’ by Ish Doney

I am turning my old anger into coasters.

When they are finished I will invite him round for tea.


If you listen, the sea is everywhere,

and the taste of sea rain

is why I never go home.

It is the taste of pale, pale grey.

Tea is the taste of a red-brick house

in Avondale in the 90s.

Jessica and I drank

from pink plastic teacups

just big enough for one lump of sugar

and no tea.


There are small red gumboots somewhere

that tell the story of a wharf in the rain

and a smack to the skull

with the butt of a knife

that means it won’t suffer.

The sweet, weak tea of almost being alive.


Richard liked scrambled eggs,

so I should have known it wasn’t love.

I should have known more about fish:

how to catch, cook and keep them.


Dense blue pressing

in at the windows of the Toyota Corolla;

dressed in house-paint black,

smelling of road trips

and the inability to get up hills.

We will drive it out under the whales

and watch the fish stars,

or as far as a tank of gas

goes underwater.

Ish will become fish

and live salt life

and eat fishermen whole.


I will put salt in his tea

and make him take me back

to where the fish grow

light or heavy with years,

depending on whether they’ve lost or gained them.


Teacups are better at forgetting

than fish and humans.

I am learning to become a teacup;

sinking down through the salt-warm sounds

into sand.


A few days ago I found a surprise parcel in my mail box. It was a poetry book, ‘Where the fish grow‘ and had been sent me by a friend who attended the book’s launch and was impressed by the strength of it’s young author’s writing. Of course I promptly sat down and read it. And what a read! There was so much in there that was redolent of my own youth. The heartbreak, the resilience, the sea …always the sea and the pots of tea. I chose the above poem for the way in which Ish recalls the memories of her growing and turns them into fresh new images. This is the poet’s first collection and I look forward to reading more of her work.

We will drive it out under the whales

and watch the fish stars,

or as far as a tank of gas

goes underwater.

What lovely lines these are!


Launched in April 2016, ‘Where the fish grow’ is from the latest of the Makaro Press Hoopla poetry series. The publisher has this to say;Ish writes of  her move from New Zealand to Scotland, to find that tea leaves in a pot still make a cup of tea, but one that’s somehow different. Then she winds back to other more painful leave-takings that a pot of tea has no answer for. And Ish finds as she writes that what she misses most in her new life is the salty and reassuring place where fish grow. An accomplished first collection from a young poet that speaks directly and with great beauty of the stuff of the heart.”

Ish Doney
Ish Doney

In a review of ‘Where the fish grow’ on NZ Poetry Shelf,  Paula Green says; “The poems generate a youthful zest, as they navigate love, loss, home, family, departure, distance. Feeling is paramount but, rather than smothering the poems, sets up shop in the pace of a line, sharp and surprising detail, images that prick your skin.”

This poem is published with permission. Thank you Ish and also Mary McCallum the publisher.  And thanks to Jane for sending me the book.To read more Tuesday Poems please go to the Tuesday Poem site here.